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Monday, February 1, 2010

Toxic dumping must stop in Perry County

Editorial from Tuscaloosa News...

Published: Monday, February 1, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 1, 2010 at 12:07 a.m.

It is time to quit dumping on Perry County. If complaints of health issues and allegations of improper disposal from the Arrowhead Landfill aren’t enough, a bankruptcy filing should be the wake-up call.

Arrowhead Landfill has received more than 1 million tons of coal ash from the cleanup in East Tennessee, where the dam on a retaining pond failed, spilling the toxin-laden mess. Millions of tons more are on the way.

Despite concerns over the long-term environmental and health risks, this was sold to the people of economically depressed Perry County as a money-maker. The landfill is supposed to pay the county for every ton dumped at the landfill.

Now owners of the landfill, about 60 miles south of Tuscaloosa, have filed for bankruptcy protection. Nearly $780,000 that is owed to Perry County taxpayers has not been paid.

It is time for an injunction that would halt the flow of toxin-laden ash to Perry County until the concerns — financial and environmental — can be clear up.

Perhaps the bankruptcy filing is simply the result of a dispute between the landfill owners and operators. Phill-Con Services and Phillips and Jordan Inc. — operators of the landfill, who have a $95 million contract with TVA to dispose of the ash —are accused of withholding money owed to the landfill owners — Perry Uniontown Ventures LLC and Perry County Associates.

Maybe it is a tactic to forestall lawsuits that have been threatened because of questionable dumping practices and odors from the landfill, which some residents say have caused headaches and nausea.

The landfill owners and opeators have claimed the Arrowhead Landfill is a state-of-the-art facility that exceeds the specifications needed to handle the ash. But some Perry County residents claim that leachate — liquid runoff from the landfill — has been pumped into the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which isn’t equipped to deal with that.

Until this gets straightened out, Perry County doesn’t need more rail cars of ash.

The TVA coal ash will have a big impact on the 1,000-acre landfill. Even after it is filled and sealed, the landfill will need to be monitored for leaks, effectively forever. It will never be land that can be farmed or developed.

Is there sufficient money being put aside by the landfill owners to handle this legacy? Will it fall on the shoulders of the people of Perry County, who haven’t gotten the money that has been promised to them?

Taking on Tennessee’s toxic problem was questionable to begin with. There are clear signs that this may not work out as well as the project’s boosters have claimed. Until there are better assurances, we don’t need to make the problem worse.

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