Re-visiting landfill issue in Lowndes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Lowndes County Commission rejected a construction and demolition landfill proposal in 2006, a 3-2 decision applauded by citizens who detested the $25 million project.

One of those citizens would hate for county commissioners to find themselves in the same scenario in 2007.

Bruce Sharp says he doesn’t have a hidden agenda and is not a member of a pro or anti-landfill group. He only wants what’s best for Lowndes County.

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&uot;It’s just me as citizen,&uot; said Sharp, who works as construction manager in Montgomery. &uot;That’s how I was hoping to bring it to the table again. Hoping that would take some of the angst out of it, but obviously it did not.&uot;

In November, Sharp asked the commission to consider amending the county’s solid waste plan, which was authored in 2004 by Birmingham-based company Engineering Service Associates, Inc. (ESA). Sharp invited ESA representative Celeste Lachenmyer to answer the commissioners’ questions. Lachenmyer refused to comment.

&uot;There are several items that need to be amended and one is that we need to have a siting plan,&uot; Sharp said. &uot;We need to have a siting plan that doesn’t impact the Alabama River or the natural flowways.

&uot;The other one (amendment) is that we need to have the permittee or the person that’s requesting to have a landfill site provide us with a performance payment and a closure bond so that if they decide to leave the project, the county has the funds to go against their bonding company to close the dump according the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.&uot;

Sharp also requested the county place restrictions on the size of the landfills and that landfill developers provide a 90 to 180 day groundwater study, which would be a requirement to obtain an Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) permit.

In addition, &uot;I asked that the commission have three public hearings over a period of three months or 90 days which is mandated by law for them to say yes, they will allow it or no, they won’t,&uot; Sharp said. &uot;This will give more time not only for the developer to have input but also the citizens instead of fighting and arguing and innuendos.&uot;

The construction and demolition landfill, proposed by the Alabama-Georgia-based company Alabama River Partners, LLC, was part of a project that included an inland port and a sand and a gravel operation. In previous reports, ARP spokeswoman Kim Davis said the project would bring up to 75 jobs and provide a new tax base for Lowndes County. The landfill was to be located in the county’s industrial district along the Alabama River and Pintlala Creek. The commission voted against the proposal in August.

District 1 Commissioner Robert Harris, who voted against the landfill, said the commission questioned why the same people who authored the solid waste plan would want to amend it.

&uot;I didn’t take it too kindly,&uot; Harris said on Friday. &uot;My thought was that they were all around the table when the plan was first enacted and they gave their seal of approval. My thing is not the change something every time someone comes up with an idea that will cost us $8,000 to $12,000 each time.&uot;

Harris said the commission advised ESA to present the commission with a complete list of well-researched amendments to consider. Harris said the commission will not make any decisions on the solid waste plan in the near future. Sharp wants the commission should take on the solid waste plan with a sense of urgency.

&uot;No one is willing to open it back up again and the minimum requirements are satisfactory for the county commissioners,&uot; Sharp said. &uot;They have no intent to open it back up, which to me is not a way to look it. I don’t believe Lowndes County should operate at the minimum.

&uot;We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings. The future will probably bring an ill-prepared, underfunded dump developer who will get a host approval and then leave the county to clean up the mess a generation from now.&uot;