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Landfill sale to remain on hold

Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District places condition on any potential sale of landfill


Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams was able to convince his fellow board members of the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District (OMSWD) that while selling the Northwest Arkansas Board of Regional Sanitation’s (NABORS) landfill in Three Brothers may make financial sense for waste district, selling to any entity with the intention of re-opening the landfill doesn’t make much environmental sense.

On Thursday morning, representatives from four of the five remaining counties making up the OMSWD met in Harrison for the first time in the new year. After electing new officers to the board and receiving an update from the waste district’s attorney John Verkamp regarding ongoing court cases surrounding the NABORS landfill, Adams addressed the board.

Speaking on behalf of the City of Mountain Home, Adams told members that both the city and Baxter County were “adamantly opposed” to a proposed sale of the landfill to Lakeshore Recycling Services out of Rosemont, Ill., or any company that intends to re-open the landfill and accept more waste.

“It’s an environmental risk … that will have a huge impact similar to that of the hog farm [near the Buffalo River],” he said.

The waste district board voted unanimously in favor of not selling the financially embroiled and environmentally compromised landfill that is located roughly six miles from where the City of Mountain Home’s water intake and treatment plant pulls water from Lake Norfork. The plant provides water for approximately 70-75 percent of Baxter County residents.

In 2005, inspectors found 101 inches of leachate on top of a geo-plastic liner permitted to hold only 12 inches, according to The Baxter Bulletin archives.

Adams described the landfill’s location as sitting atop a ridge halfway between Norfork and Bull Shoals lakes. There is an additional water intake on Bull Shoals which provides water for the cities of Marshall and Jasper.

In his updates regarding the current ongoing court cases involving NABORS, Verkamp told the waste district that the sale contract he had drafted with LRS had an anticipated closing date of Dec. 23, 2022. Additionally, he said that the lawyer retained to represent the taxpayers in the NABORS case surrounding the $18 collection fee for the OMSWD has rejected the sale. Those two items have in effect stopped any potential sale to LRS.

Adams said another area trash hauler has expressed interest in purchasing the NABORS landfill, one who purportedly has no interest in reopening the landfill, but would only do so if they were absolved of monitoring of the landfill and removing contaminated leachate from it for the next 30 years, as is currently stipulated.

It is presumed Adams is referring to Mountain Home waste hauler Waste Connections, who recently purchased Methvin Sanitation. Waste Connections has been described as the third largest waste hauler in the country.

Justice of the Peace for Boone County and Boone County’s representative of the OMSWD Fred Woehl, who was selected as the new chairman of the OMSWD, said during the meeting that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has paying roughly $300,000 a year to monitor and remove leachate from NABORS. The ADEQ began picking up the tab following OMSWD’s failed attempt to declare bankruptcy back in 2012.

Woehl said while he supports the idea of the landfill remaining inoperable, he said the ADEQ has said they won’t continue to monitor and clean up the landfill, and will return the responsibility to the OMSWD, whether they have the finances to cover it or not.

He reminded those present that the anger from taxpayers over the annual $18 fee was “incredible,” which he said he understood, adding it wouldn’t be right for the taxpayers to end up with the entire clean-up bill.

“A lot of these people living in the district weren’t living here in the beginning,” Woehl said. “I’m in favor of not putting more trash in, but who’s going to pay for it?”

Verkamp agreed, adding that killing any potential sale will not make the existing financial and ecological issues go away.

The yearly $18 fee was collected by court order for the OMSWD to repay the revenue bonds the district had issued to purchase the landfill.

Mountain Home resident and President of the Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers Sam Cooke was given five minutes to address the board and focused on the current environmental implications caused by the contaminated leachate that has been found in groundwater.

According to October reports from Harbor Environmental and Safety Consultants of Little Rock, monitored wells on and offsite of the landfill property indicated elevated levels of dangerous, organic chemicals and heavy metals — some in excess of four times the health standard limits.

Cooke added that recent dye sampling work was completed and the results are not yet available, adding that he hopes that information will be made available to the public.

Coincidentally on Thursday, the Arkansas Department of Health issued a fish consumption advisory for walleye caught on Bull Shoals Lake — Marion, Baxter and Boone counties — and on Norfork Lake for Baxter and Fulton counties.

Woehl suggested that if Cooke and the other members of Friends had concerns about the NABORS landfill that perhaps they should purchase it to ensure that it would not be reopened. Cooke shrugged off that notion, adding that NABORS required governmental oversight, stopping short of saying that the ADEQ was not doing their job.

Dr. Rob Conner, a Mountain Home veterinarian and owner of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital, said that as a resident and business owner he has paid in more than $18 to the OMSWD to buy the landfill, adding he’s not “interested in paying $18 because someone made a bad investment,” but he would pay that for a “better solution” than reopening the landfill.

Conner concluded his comments with a phrase that could be embossed on a T-shirt, saying “not one more bag of trash” should end up in the NABORS landfill.

Adams agreed, adding that the can of blame “should be kicked back to the ADEQ” as they were the responsible party that approved the permitting for the original landfill back in 1979. Additionally, he suggested that the ADEQ remove the trash from the facility all together, though he did not identify who should bear the financial burden for doing so.

Along with appointing Woehl as waste board chair, current secretary and longest serving member on the board — Gassville Mayor Jeff Braim — was elected vice chairman and incoming Bull Shoals Mayor Michael Savu was elected board secretary. Harrison Chief Financial Officer Luke Feighert will remain as the treasurer in charge of finances.

In other business, the board discussed hiring Chuck Seaton as the new board director to replace Steve Kershaw, who has moved out of the district area. Seaton attended the meeting, serving as a proxy for Searcy County Judge Tony Horton. Kershaw will stay on for an additional month to train Seaton, who will receive a salary in the neighborhood of $30,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on if his position is part- or full-time.

At the invitation of Mayor Adams, members of the waste district have been invited to visit the 698-acre NABORS landfill located at 1320 Landfill Road in Three Brothers at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. If the group has a quorum, the agreed to set a regular meeting schedule for the remainder of the year.


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