|How did we end up with Middle Point Landfill?
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With the recent revelation of Tennessee law allowing the disposal of low-level radioactive waste into Middle Point landfill with no public knowledge, some wonder just how the landfill came to Rutherford County.
The landfill has plagued with controversy from the start. No one wants a landfill in the backyard and it's no different here. But trash has to go somewhere.
In 1987 Rutherford County found itself in a dilemma. The county landfill was almost full and troubled with new federal and state regulations. It went from being a model landfill to being inundated with violations within a few short years.
Charles Rowlett and Eddie McCrary of ROMAC Inc. stepped in and proposed placing a landfill on the adjoining property they had purchased from Red Rose Dairies in 1986.
In late 1987 the state granted ROMAC a permit for a Class I sanitary landfill, which provides for the safe disposal of household, commercial and approved special wastes, on 200 acres of the property located on Jefferson Pike. And the county commission approved its plans.
"It was approved out of committee to be sold to two individuals," recalled County Commissioner Bob Bullen who was beginning his first term, "so I didn't see any problem with it."
However, ROMAC was planning a sale to Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI). In Jan. 1988, ROMAC sold its 200 acres to BFI for $10 million.
"I was stunned and realized that the political world was a pretty rough place," Bullen said. "That event was the last that anyone expected. … People were totally stunned."
BFI opened Jefferson Pike (Middle Point) landfill's gates to local trash in the spring of 1988 with an expected lifetime of 20 years.
The safety of Stones River and the prospect of becoming the trash pile of the state were foremost among community concerns at the time.
However, the standards for sanitary landfills require "a flexible membrane overlaying two feet of compacted clay soil lining the bottom and sides of the landfill, protect groundwater and the underlying soil from leachate releases," according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Landfill operators are also required by the state to monitor groundwater quality on a quarterly basis, according to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
So, landfills are relatively safe for the water supply.
Moreover, BFI had promised that no trash from outside the county would make it into the Jefferson Pike landfill, but by 1989 it said outside trash was needed to make the business profitable.
BFI started trucking in trash from Coffee, Wilson and eventually Davidson counties.
In 1994, Nancy Allen was elected to County Mayor and she found herself negotiating a contract with BFI to take the County's trash for free.
"The county landfill was closing," Allen recalled. "It had reached its life and we were in discussions to figure out how to handle our sold waste."
In 1995, Rutherford County struck a new deal with BFI and Middle Point that allowed for the county to dump its trash in the landfill for free. As long as the county didn't interfere with the operations at the landfill, according to the Host Benefit Agreement.
Murfreesboro also entered into a similar agreement, which saved the city $1,456,746 in fees for the fiscal year 2006-2007. Rutherford County undoubtedly saves as much, if not more from their contract.
According to the contract, "the County … will not limit or restrict in any manner any waste delivered to the Middle Point landfill regardless of whether it is generated from within of outside of the count."
As said in previous articles by County Mayor Ernest Burgess, there is no way for the county to renegotiate this contract. All enforcement is up to the state.
The 1995 agreement also states Middle Point "shall furnish the County with a monthly report showing the total tons disposed of at the Middle Point landfill during the month."
However, it doesn't have to tell the county what types of trash are coming in every month. BFI, nor any other Middle Point official, told the county government of the possibility of dumping low-level radioactive waste into the landfill.
"I never remember that word being used. We were dealing primarily with household waste. It was never in the discussions of any committee meetings that I remember," Allen stressed.
In 2001, shortly after Metro-Nashville's thermal plant burned down, the city signed a 20-year contract with Middle Point to dispose of more than 280,000 tons of trash per year.
Along with Davidson County's trash came sludge from its sewerage treatment plant and many complaints from landfill neighbors.
The odor from the landfill increased greatly with the introduction of the sludge and complaints from the community eventually stopped the practice in 2005, said Dana Coleman, communications director with TDEC.
TDEC receives between 15-20 complaints per year about Middle Point landfill, most of which is related to odor, traffic, noise and litter, Coleman explained.
"The largest number of complaints they received about Middle Point were odor complaints related to that sludge disposal, which I believe stopped in 2005. Since then, complaints have decreased. There have been no recent Notices of Violation (NOVs) or enforcement actions against Middle Point," Coleman continued.
Beginning in 1997, Tennessee developed a framework for disposing of low-level radioactive waste. Prior to this point, all radioactive waste was disposed of on a "case-by-case basis."
"In 1997, Tennessee standardized its process for analyzing these types of waste to determine what's appropriate for disposal in a Class I landfill and what is not, … this has come to be referred to as the Bulk Survey for Release (BSFR) program," Coleman explained.
BSFR program was implemented to deal with some of the waste that was already finding its way into Tennessee landfills.
Low-level radioactive waste is generally accepted in commercial landfills across the country. But Tennessee's requirements are "extremely conservative," Coleman explained.
"The sampling and measurement processes must indicate that any materials to be disposed of as part of the BSFR program meets the strict criteria that has been established in Tennessee's regulatory framework," Coleman explained. "Most states would simply exempt this material from further regulation for unrestricted disposal, but Tennessee does not."
Any waste that exceeds the criteria would need to be disposed of in a special radioactive waste dump, like Yucca Mountain, Ariz.
"There are four licensees in Tennessee under the Bulk Survey for Release Program, but landfills are not licensees. The four licensees are IMPACt, RACE, Toxco and Duratek/Energy Solutions," Coleman said. Only Toxco and IMPACt dispose of low-level radioactive waste in Middle Point.
"Tennessee is unique in that we have more waste processors than other states, due to Oak Ridge Reservation in East Tennessee," Coleman said.
Both Toxco Material Management Center and IMPACt Services, Inc. are located in Oak Ridge and specialize in recycling and disposing of materials that have low levels of radioactive contamination.
"(Toxco) was the earliest authorized waste processing licensee authorized by specific license amendment to dispose of spent ion exchange resins at Middle Point," Coleman explained. Ion exchange resins are by-products of water treatment at power and drinking water plants.
"But Toxco did not begin utilizing the program for disposal at Middle Point until March 2006," Coleman said, even though it had been licensed since April 1991.
IMPACt Services was licensed in 1997, Coleman said. However, calls were not returned as to how much waste they have sent into Rutherford County.
It processes waste from construction sites, power plants, pharmaceutical and other research labs, protective clothing, tools and equipment that has been exposed to radioactive material, according to its website.
IMPACt has recently launched a website explaining its role in this controversy, which can be found at www.factsaboutbsfr.com.
In late 2004, BFI proposed expanding the landfill by 70 additional acres, adding up to 15 years to its lifespan.
The proposal was approved in early 2006, expanding the landfill from 139 to 209 acres, making more room for more trash.
That same year approximately 1.2 million tons of trash found a home at Middle Point, said Jim Zeumer, vice president of communications for BFI's parent company, Allied Waste Industries.
Nancy Allen NEGOTIATED THE CONTRACT in 1995 but says she never knew of the radioactive waste! Some mayor! I dealt with her on issues in Smyrna early in her reign in political office, and she was so unhelpful and totally unwilling to listen and compromise. PLEASE do not re-elect Nancy Allen into politics again.
OK, if she knew, then I suppose the mayor and city manager of Murfreesboro at the time knew, too. Your other post says she knew. How do you know that?
The explanations of these people are ludicrous. They didn't know, they didn't ask, they didn't consider a sale was probable for one of the largest money makers in the nation. Waste management! The trends in the 70's showed this.
Basically there are only two players today really in waste management in the US with a stated (websites) goal of taking over all of the government owned sites.
But back to the negotiation both originally and with Nancy and again with the expansion. All 3 times this question of what type waste should have been addressed!
Our elected officials take an oath to serve, not to be stupid. We pay for county and city attorneys to make sure they understand the context of these negotiations and contracts, how were they earning their pay?
Any person worth their salt in business would have thought all these possibilities were evident and that a landfill would be operated for profit and that with other changes being discussed at these various times regarding limiting the total number of landfills to regions would mean that counties without a landfill, it all would have less places to go.
Simple research on the internet with the expansion led me to question many things about the landfill. The radio-active material was brought up at the last public meeting, I heard it asked and denied by landfill and state represetnantive. That this landfill would not accept this type waste, the most questionable accepted waste they acknowledged then and in future was medical waste.
Another bold moment we actually had a chance to re-negotiate.
During the expansion talks, the landfill corporate website had information on it that said they had lost a lowa suit in Texas for the sludge issue, and they were quoted numerous times that they had no idea sludge stunk.
Another point for the reporter for research is the issue of liners. Again some internet research will lead you to numerous green organizations and experts that say all liners leak. During questions regarding the explansion this was addressed and acknowledged that they had had to fix leaks at Middle Point. (state answered)
The curious fact about the expansion land site was that they acknowledged that it was previously sinkholes.
I will not try to remember the exact number of acres and how many feet down they took away rock and other debris to get to a solid enough surface for the state to even consider the site suitable. But it was a large percentage of the 70 acres. The state had turned down other sites in Tn for the same situation, except that they were not allowed to dig to see how far it would be necessary to get to solid surface.
Our county sits on a honeycomb of caves and underground streams where year round and seasonal creeks feed the water system which flows in to Stones River. Honeycomb is how experts I believe describe it. So why would the water be tested only upstream and not downstream of the landfill. I don't know that they have mapped the curves underground to know where it all drains. At least the state told me they had not.
Any deal should always start with research of the company that wants they deal for their motivation; usually money. We could have made that $10 million dollars on the orginal sell out. Point is, we should have known what the deal was worth and the desires of who would buy then and in future. They certainly do. It may be government but the other guys are in it for business.
whatif, your post is very informative.
We've been discussing this in our household because, though we live well within Murfreesboro's boundaries, we do not have city water. We are one of many families in the city that still rely on a well for our household drinking supply. We've been told that our source is probably an underground river ... and our supply most likely comes from miles and miles away.
Your comments about the underground supply and also excavating down to solid solid surface (which makes the waste come even closer to possibly getting through rock fissures with out being filtered through dirt) hit home.
Great job on your response. Wish you could have been involved on the origination of this process to INQUIRE on radioactive wastes. Very nice and informative reply.
peri_winkle: Nancy Allen knew. Her name is on the April 1995 signed contract with a BFI official (VP). The contract became effective July 1, 1995.
A direct quote from the contract:
"....the County agrees that during the term of this Agreement that it will not limit or restrict in any manner any waste delivered to the Middle Point Landfill regardless of whether it is generated from within or outside of the County."
also another quote:
"...Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained herein, it is understood and agreed that if JPL ceases operations of the Middle Point Landfill or the Middle Point Landfill closes for any reason, then the obligation of JPL to provide host benefits to the County pursuant to this Agreement shall terminate."
Well, there you go. They can bring in ANYTHING as long as it passes "state levels". We must have full faith trust that BFI will test and monitor and do the right thing with ANYTHING that comes in.
If you have ever watched those trucks come in, you will see how they just make a brief stop at the guard shack and move on. No one really inspects the "cargo".
The other paragraph? If BFI leaves or sells to another entity, we're screwed.
She should have never signed an agreement that left such gaping loopholes. The county should have had some type of terminatin clause included to have at least SOME type of monitoring control. We are the nation's dumping ground now. BFI is a money making corporation. They will negotiate any contract to make money. Bottom line.
I am very, very disappointed with Nancy Allen. She was County Executive at the time and her name is on the bottom line.
bonita: You summed it up so well. Your knowledge of this situation is exemplary. Thank you for your concise and accurate and well presented thoughts.
If you are going to blame Nancy Allen for this fiasco, then blame must also be placed on the county attorney, the city mayor, the city council, the county commision, the state representatives and any and all those involved with the contract/negotiations.
The only fact is that those at the state level and business owners did not divulge what was meant my "special waste" allowing all others to believe it was no worse than medical waste.
ASs for k, it is apparent she/he has an axe to grind with the former mayor and is vindictive with postings.
I believe GrumpaEd must be related to Nancy Allen. No vindiction - just want the facts on why a county mayor had 'no knowledge'; and our citizens are exposed to multiple poundage of radioactive wastes that could result in adverse health issues. My home is not far from this landfill; and I am concerned as are many others on how we can move ahead on this issue and find resolution.
Thank you for your input.
So K...I think it is time for you to identify yourself or stop your posts.
ed isn't related. but 'k', you had an option to sell your home if it was there before the dump. you have also had the option of selling since then. everyone involved in this is to blame.
KeptMan - Someone who owns a home near the landfill is to accept blame for radioactive materials being dumped? That makes no sense.
you make no sense. i told 'k' that he/she owns a home near the dump. they chose to stay put. they could have sold it, they chose not to, but to stay pu. yeah, someone who stays in their own misery deserves no sympathy. however, perhaps i speak above you and your level, everyone involved in bringing the dump here is to blame. everyone who let it happen is to blame. tell you what, next time i'll be sure to dumb it down to the 3rd grade level. perhaps then you'll understand the context.
Ok, maybe I've missed a posting somewhere from K but I have see nothing vindictive or nasty in their posting, maybe it's just me. KeptMan, you do not know everyone's situation, maybe there was a reason this person could not sell their home -- maybe because it STINKS out there. I find your post very belittling to whomever you are speaking to, but maybe that's just my opinion.
Since Nancy Allen negotiated the deal with BFI it is she snd she alone who bears responsibility for this mess. If it is found that any other elected official was involved in those negotiations then they too should be held accountable for their appearent negligence. This isn't a political issue but one of competance.
The radioactive materials are probably some of the safer waste materials that are dumped
at Middlepoint. I am more concerned about the toxic materials and heavy metals that are disposed of there.
Allowing this landfill to be built in a location that is practically in the city limits and abutting our source of drink water to boot is probably the single most asinine thing that our local legislators have ever foisted upon us. To justify this abomination by saving a relatively few dollars a year is the epitomy of shortsightedness.
Yes, elguapo, I agree. However, we DO know about the low level radioactive wastes. No telling what else is in there!?
sardon - I agree with you as well. On the landfill contract, there are two signatures. One of our then County Exec. and one that belongs to the Allied Waste/BFI VP. Her position on this matter is like one of the Captain of a ship. The operation/fate of a ship rests solely with the Captain. When all is said and done - the Captain is responsible. The Captain is at the top. In my opinion, the County Executive's position is the same.
Captain:Ship County Exec.:County Govt.
KeptMan - Whew! Cool your jets! No one put you on the defensive. When you post here, the button says "Post Opinion" - true? "opinion" being the operative word?
By the way, if "k" were to move somewhere else in Rutherford County, do you think they have left the landfill issue behind? NO. The landfill is everyone's issue that lives here and will be for generations to come.
First, I am not related to Nancy Allen.
Second, If she is the Captain of the ship and therefore responsible, then where is the responsibility of the ship's owners - the county commissioners who directed the Captain to negotiate, report and sign?
In other posts, at the Post and DNJ, it has been stated the concerns held by Ketron, Evans and others who were on the county commission at the time. Yet, to my knowledge, none ever addressed or brought in experts to advise the commission and captain of potential pitfalls.
And k, I do believe you are angry for having lost the election and are now venting your venom. If you are whom I think you are, be advised I voted for you during that election.
I am 'k' and have NEVER run for political office in my life. I'm not 'angry' over any lost election! Wow! You've placed me on a pedastal as a disgruntled politician. I'm just a lowly, concerned citizen, who is very much wanting answers to unanswered questions. The statistics for ANY radioactive wastes leached into soil and groundwater can cause future cancers. I'm looking at 20 years in the future for our grandchildren. Yes, there were more than 'just Nancy Allen' involved in this process; and an open forum to discuss the matter in a calm and dignified manner is the only resolution ahead.
Please do not attack me, GrumpaEd, as you have twice previously. I'm not the enemy.....I'm just a citizen, as you, looking for answers.
K, first you claimed to have been involved in city government in Smyrna ... then you launched a series of personal attacks against Nancy Allen, GrumpaEd...etc. You can't have it both ways.
yeah, i recall the attacks on Ed and Nancy. i don't read anything where Ed has started an arguement with 'k' (if you are who you say you are). at any rate, everyone involved in what's going on out there should be held accountable. one person didn't do it by herself.
Ok, does someone want to point out what I have missed in K's post, what I see is a citizen like myself who had had to deal with a poliitician(?) who claims to care but really only cares about what is best for their own pockets. I had my own issues with Al Gore in the 80's but I have moved past them & as far as I can see K has the right to post her opinion about Nancy & by the way I can't stand her my self --that is my opinion--. It seems to me that certain ones Bonita) for example have a very informed knowledge of what was in the contract either by having been involved in the government or just doing their homework. Now as for you Mike , you may choose to end our freedom of speech i.e these postings but you & Keptman need to show me where these attacks supposedly are. I read this paper every day & have yet to see anything nasty about K's posting. Show me & maybe I'll shut up BUT THAT IS "MY" OPINION.
Mikewest and keptman:
You have taken freedom of speech to the ground. No personal attacks - only a desire for open forum on this matter. I rest my case.
The continuance of dumping of radioactive wastes is only detrimental to EVERY Smyrna citizen. I am so glad to not know either of you personally. I only want a positive difference. I had rather you not write any more negative statements on my behalf.
i don't recall posting anything 'on your behalf' that would infer that i work for you or am doing something at your request. i post because i want to and because i can and the 1st amendment protects this. i appreciate your request not to post anything negative ABOUT you, but negative is in the eye of the beholder, so request denied.
Boy! This certainly is getting off topic.
Mike West: You say k "claimed to have been involved in city government in Smyrna". Did k ever say he/she held public office or held some type of assigned position? Maybe I just missed that. I personally have never perceived k to be a government official. However, if they were/are - I couldn't care less. Involved in government could mean simply caring to keep up with what is going on in one's city and speaking up when necessary.
I really don't think anyone should be assuming who someone is and making comments accordingly. How about keeping "personal" comments to ourselves and keeping our remarks to the forum issue. It is of my belief that if you hold public office, you open yourself up for public scrutiny and sometimes the comments may not be all roses.
OK - as far as my Captain analogy: Someone has to be ultimately responsible. On a ship, it's the Captain. He needs to have people under him to do the right things because in the end, their decisions could end his career. Why? He's the man on the bottom line. Yes, he answers to the ship owners. The County Executive(the Captain) answers to the citizens that elected them to that office. It is hopeful that the County Commissioners (that directed her to negotiate, report and sign) did the right thing by researching and calling in experts.
Apparently, they did not. All the County could see was the "cha ching" of every truck hauling who knows what into Middle Point and they were all for it.
Again, when it comes down to it - who's name do we see on the bottom line of that darn contract? Nancy Allen's. That's why she is getting a share of the criticism for this mess.
We had to delete several K posts because they violated our terms of service.
ok, so you deleted some of K's post because of TOS, then why does keptman think or know of these alleged personal attacks on Nancy Allen? Are the posts deleted before or after they are put in this opinion section or are you two sharing a bit of info uuummm? I know that this is an "opinion" section & everyone has a right to post their own opinion (before you start on me Kept) but no one has the right to belittle someone by saying "PERHAPS I SPEAK ABOVE YOUR LEVEL NEXT TIME I WILL DUMB IT DOWN TO A 3RD GRADE LEVEL PERHAPS YOU'LL UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT" belittling & nasty IN MY OPINION. your attacks seem to have gotten off where it should be.
This stinky nasty dangerous mess called a landfill is from what I can gather Nancy Allen's baby & we are stuck with her mess. I would love to move to that end of the county but the smell makes me sick, & I have grandchildren living out that direction, this makes me worry about their health. Is there a politico out there anywhere with big enough kahuna's to stop & clean up this mess? All we can really do is use our vote, keep voting them out until someone is brave enough to say STOP!!!
what i notice, and i'm not a web expert, but when i hit 'post opinion' and go back to the page, my opinion is already there. it does not appear that the post is reviewed then posted after review. but i'm certain that is someone points out the post may have violated TOS, then Mike has every right to delete the post. so perhaps i'm at my computer more than someone else, but some posts are here, then gone.
As it now stands, the only ones that can say STOP to this mess are our legislators in Nashville. This means that our Rutherford legislators will have to unite with those state legislators representing areas housing the other dangerous land fills. With those united numbers, maybe, just maybe, our voices will be heard and heeded.
ASs for k, I hardly knew ya, and hope to keep it thataway. However, I will be at the Blackman BBQ tonight carrying my blue shoulder bagged oxygen tank, so stop by and say hello.
KeptMan is correct on editing of posted opinions.
Acting in good faith, we allow opinions to go directly online.
Sometimes, and it's fairly infrequent, we find we must delete a post.
But, it goes up first.
Being of fairly limited staff, we are simply unable to monitor the site 24 hours, especially for the nightowls posting at 2 and 4 a.m.
Generally, that does not present problems.
K did post several early opinions on Nancy Allen, the first post on this story is representative, and one did make mention of prior service with Smyrna government.
As to the issue, some observations:
While the landfill may be a "stinky nasty dangerous mess," it isn't Nancy Allen's baby.
By the time she became county mayor (the title was county executive when she was first elected), the landfill was already operational, and state law had pretty much taken any control out of local officials' hands.
The landfill issue goes back to the mid-1980s when BFI purchased the property and permit from a couple of area men.
In hindsight it is easy to say commissoners then should have been more careful.
But, it would be only fair to note that then garbage disposal was little more than burying trash with dirt. EPA regulation was only beginning to enter the more advanced stages we see now.
And, honestly, few officials or citizens around here even considered the possiblity of a big, giant, out-of-state corporation swooping in on us.
In todays' context, it would seem a no-brainer.
Then, folks just didn't see the risk of outside operators because garbage here had not been a profit-making endeavor.
Whether the county signed a contract in the mid-1990s or not, Middle Point would still be running and most likely doing exactly what it is doing now, except for taking care of Rutherford's garbage.
Also, the county mayor had to receive authority from the county commission to sign the contract with BFI.
In fact, the commisison is the controlling authority. Commisisoners then had a robust debate on the contract.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: See my Sunday column on the issue.
Don't appreciate Mike Pirtle being biased on this issue.
And, no, GrumpaEd, I will not be attending the Blackman BBQ to say hello to you.
Mike, thank you for answering my question about K's postings not being there for me to read, I understand the TOS & if a posting is extremely vicious it is your right to delete it. To the rest of you (except kept man) I apologize for going a bit off topic but I agree that our greedy good ole boys & girls are the problem. As for you Keptman, I am the type of person that can not stand to see ANYONE talked down to as you have. You make yourself appear to be smarter & more high & mighty than some & that is my pet peeve. I try not to get on my soapbox to any one person unless someone like you comes along or it is a story on DUI's. Thank you all for being informative good people. I look forward to reading this paper everyday.
hamrtyme: You and Bonita have been the 2 calm voices in this matter. Not one of my
postings has been vicious.....I don't see any deleted on this blog.
At any rate, you are a voice of reason and we need more citizens like yourself looking
at the 'big picture' and not ready to condemn and accuse.
In Rutherford County, we all have to work TOGETHER. What has happened with the landfill cannot be altered...we need to learn from this and move forward.
I am so hopeful that our present council will watch very closely on matters regarding Middle Point and close this catastophe of a landfill sooner than later. In addition to the radioactive wastes, we have taken in all of Nashville's trash, and that is a debacle.
Hamrtyme, you have been nothing but reasonable and logical in your responses.
Login and voice your opinion!
I did attend the BBQ and signed two petitions, one on the landfill and the other on the theme park. I spoke with several people, elected officials and regular folk alike. Sorry you did not attend k, you missed some great BBQ and good times.