• 32°

‘We don’t want a landfill!’

Lowndes Co. residents pleading for support

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

LOWNDESBORO – Cars littered the front lawn of Lowndesboro’s historic CME Church in Lowndes County Monday night as residents convened to dispute the proposal of a construction and demolition (C&D) landfill in their town.

The community meeting, led by Citizens for a Clean Black Belt (CCBB), addressed the dangers of a landfill not only to Lowndes County residents, but those who live in nearby areas.

If passed by the Lowndes County Commission, the landfill – to be located along the border of the Alabama River – would be privy to 10 million pounds of waste daily from Alabama and five other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee.

In addition, remaining polluted debris from Hurricane Katrina would be dumped in the county.

“It makes no sense to haul that stuff here,” said Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate, also a member of CCBB. “Why bring it to Lowndes County?”

If county commissioners choose to take no action on the matter, the proposal will pass automatically according to Alabama Code, said Tina Moon, CCBB chairwoman.

Residents fear the construction of this landfill will surely contaminate their water systems, leading to nearly irreversible environmental and safety issues. A recent study on C&D landfills published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states “problematic waste is detected and often not screened out” of the waste areas. The study also reported findings of arsenic, cyanide, cadmium and lead.

Although developers say the potential of the waste permeating the water system is “unlikely,” residents beg to differ.

“It will get in your groundwater, no matter what the developers will tell us,” said CCBB member Mark Sasser.

Residents also fear the progress Lowndes County has made over the years would be sacrificed for extra cash to line businessmen’s pockets.

Property values would decline and landfill operators would not properly monitor the site, they say.

“Lowndes County is a great place,” Pate said. “I live here because I choose to be here. I know Lowndes County is not perfect, but I don’t think we should sellout to get a few jobs and few taxes.”

“We can’t do this. We’re better than this.”

According to figures calculated by Moon, Lowndes County would make approximately $500,000 per year off the landfill. Alabama River Partners, LLC – the company proposing the landfill – looks to make $12.6 million dollars a year. Moon and Pate both say Lowndes County is definitely inheriting the short end of the stick.

Emotions were high during the meeting as two men nearly got into a fistfight over the matter, but Moon and Pate reminded the audience they have to work together to be victorious.

Commissioner Robert Harris was present at the meeting and listened attentively to citizen concerns. Harris said he and fellow commissioners will take all arguments into consideration and believes education is key to solving the issue.

“I don’t deny everything you said is true,” he said. “People already assume we are going to pass this, but we need to be given the benefit of the doubt. A sound decision will be made.”

If the commission passes the landfill proposal, Moon said they would take legal action to stop the construction when needed.

“There are legal avenues, but we don’t want to focus on those right now. We want to fight this on a county level,” she said.

The CCBB shutters at the idea of “out-of-towners trying to get a lick on us” and leaving waste-filled water and land behind for future generations to handle and billions of dollars spent by the county to clean up the mess, Pate said.

He doesn’t want Lowndes County to become a superfund site – a title for the nation’s most contaminated areas.

Moon said Dallas Countians should immediately jump on the anti-landfill band wagon, citing barges filled with waste would be transported down the Alabama River on a regular basis.

Moon added certain areas of the river would have to be “bridged out” to accommodate the barges, a sight she thinks many don’t want to see alongside the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The CCBB is garnering all the support they can. The organization has purchased signs and bumper stickers to distribute throughout communities and has collected several petition signatures. Members encourage residents to ring county commissioners’ phones “off the hook” to persuade a “no” vote.

“Let them know you don’t want this landfill. We’ve got to start calling,” Moon said.

The CCBB will hold another community meeting July 17 at 7 p.m. in Hayneville Square and will appear at the Lowndes County Commission meeting on July 24 at 6 p.m., also in Hayneville.

For more information, call (334) 264-1296.