Updated with Middle Point response.
Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland said there is a light at the end of the tunnel to solve the Middle Point Landfill situation.
“The city is really close to being able to say, ‘We’ve got the Plan B on what’s next,’ ” the mayor said during an interview on WGNS Radio.
McFarland said the city has been working with WastAway, an organization in Morrison, Tenn., which converts solid waste into biofuel for the last couple of years. That biofuel can be used to fuel cement kilns or turned into natural gas.
The city signed a letter of intent with WastAway and Argos USA in April. According to a news release from the city, the letter is a step toward utilizing Argo USA’s Calera, Ala., cement plant sustainable engineered fuel manufactured by WastAway and derived from the city’s solid waste.
McFarland said he doesn’t feel that the Central Tennessee Regional Solid Waste Planning Board’s vote to stop counties outside the region from dumping solid waste will have a significant effect because these counties constitute the landfill’s only paying customers.
“The business model doesn’t work out for Middle Point to keep that landfill open and not charge Rutherford County,” McFarland told WGNS. “So, there’s going to have to be some kind of renegotiation of what we’re going to pay to take our trash there because they’re not going to keep a landfill open, operating a landfill and not have any income come in.”
Another problem at Middle Point is the bumper-to-bumper traffic inside the landfill as 18-wheelers and garbage trucks slowly wind their way up the side of the landfill to the dumping spot at the top.
That means each truck and driver are “down” for that period of time, resulting in tax dollars lost.
A Middle Point spokesperson emailed the following response to the Murfreesboro Post: “We track every vehicle entering and exiting Middle Point using geofence technology from gate to gate. We know exactly how long these vehicles are on our site, if there is a queue, and for how long. The average turn time for all vehicles is 26 minutes, gate to gate.
“The insinuation that City vehicles are constantly stuck waiting in line and therefore are unable to finish their routes, costing lost tax dollars, is not factually supported. Any transfer station built and operated by the City would represent identical queueing and wait times as seen at Middle Point, or possibly even longer.”
McFarland said the city and Rutherford County are looking at partnering on a transfer station where the trucks can empty their contents in a designated location, and a dedicated vehicle would then take it to the landfill
In August, the city filed suit against the owner of Middle Point Landfill, Republic Services — the nation’s No. 2 waste corporation — and its local subsidiaries, BFI Waste Systems of Tennessee and Republic Services of Tennessee, alleging runoff from the landfill is the source of PFAs discovered in nearby waterways.
PFAs, which do not occur naturally, are known as “forever chemicals” because of their resistance to biodegradation. They have been linked to a host of lethal diseases.
In October, attorneys for Murfreesboro said they had found another local spring contaminated with PFAs, this one with a more direct link to the landfill.
Samples taken in October from Bubba Spring, located on a downgradient from the landfill, “showed unusually high levels of PFAS,” the lawsuit said. The finding is important because Middle Point’s own engineers had identified Bubba Springs as a monitoring location to test groundwater runoff from the landfill, the lawsuit noted.
“(Middle Point Landfill) engineers themselves had identified this location as a canary in the coal mine for groundwater contamination from MPL,” the lawsuit said.
The chemical composition of the samples taken from Bubba Springs contains a nearly identical profile to a spring nearby — where the presence of PFAS was first identified by city officials then disputed by Republic Services, who blamed the chemicals on city and county operations, not the landfill.
No trial date has been set for the lawsuit, which was filed in Middle District Court in Nashville.