Comments roll into ADEM about Perry County landfill

Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has begun receiving comments about a proposed expansion of the Perry County landfill.

At least one comment, from Debra Moore of Birmingham, requested a public hearing as well.

“As an African-American, I strongly oppose the expansion of this landfill because it once again brings waste into my comunity because we are poor and black,” she writes. “The landfill owners, who are rich and from Georgia suburbs, plan to receive thousands of tons of waste every single day into Perry County, most of this waste will be coal ash from the recent spill in Tennessee and will contain hazardous materials.”

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The landfill listed as owned by Perry County Associates LLC. is off U.S. Highway 80 near the Dallas-Perry county line. It is also known as the Arrowhead Landfill.

If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Valley Authority reach an agreement, the Arrowhead Landfill will take in tons and tons of ash resulting from a dike’s collapse near the Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant in Roane County, Tenn., last December.

The accident resulted in 5.4 million cubic yards of ash released in the environment — a goodly portion of it in a branch of the Emory River and more than 300 acres of adjacent land. Although the ash contained heavy metals, such as arsenic, mercury and others, the EPA said none of it was in significant numbers enough to threaten the health of people living nearby.

Documents from the EPA show the federal agency, Tennessee and TVA conducted extensive samplings of air, water, sediment and ash material. Some were found to exceed government standards for safety in humans; other samplings were not.

In June, TVA confirmed 1,000 tons of sludge from the accident were dried and loaded onto 14 railroad tank cars and shipped to a landfill in Taylor County, Ga. Another load of similar size was sent to the Arrowhead Landfill. Both sites were chosen to test ways of transporting and disposing the sludge.

Where the rest of the sludge from the Dec. 22 spill will wind up has yet to be determined. TVA has submitted an analysis of disposal options for EPA’s review.

Davina Marraccini, a public relations specialist with EPA’s Region 4 that oversees operations in Alabama, Georgia and other southeastern states, released a statement saying, “Prior to approving a disposal site for this portion of the material, EPA will ensure the facility is operating in compliance with solid waste regulations and that potential risks to the community, especially any vulnerable populations, are addressed.”

Meanwhile Perry County has asked for expansion of the landfill. The comment period will end July 8, said Jerome Hand, a spokesman for ADEM.

It’s uncertain if the state agency will set a hearing date before the end of the comment period or after agency officials have reviewed all the comments, Hand said.

“It’s not unusual to set a public hearing after,” he said.