The Central Tennessee Region Solid Waste Planning Board unanimously voted Friday, July 9 to reject the first phase of Republic Services’ application to expand the Middle Point Landfill.
County Solid Waste Director and Board Chairman Mac Nolan, who collected a total of 77 public comments on the proposed expansion, reminded the audience of concerned residents that this decision is not the end all be all.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, to whom Republic submitted their application, has the authority to overturn the decision should they find it to be “arbitrary or capricious.”
Likewise, Republic Services has it within their power to sue the board for the decision as well.
Nolen said about 20 of the comments were in favor of tacking on an additional 99-acres to Middle Point to take in an added 32 million cubic yards of space for solid waste.
“In no time in the past five years has that been anything that this community’s leaders or these residents have expected to have to handle,” said board member Darren Gore of Murfreesboro. “This application to expand to this magnitude took us all off guard. We did not expect it, and we were working towards a more sustainable solution.”
Board member Donna Barrett of Rutherford County prepared a lengthy data packet that dismissed the validity of the application in terms of aligning with the county’s 10-Year Waste Management Plan.
At the previously scheduled public hearing on June 28, Republic Services General Manager Mike Classen walked through the four main areas the application would have to meet to be considered a viable option. His points were focused on the volume, cost-effectiveness, location and infrastructure costs of the landfill.
In his opinion, the proposed expansion plan would check the boxes for all of the above.
Barrett discussed several reasons why the application wouldn’t line up with the county’s plan, citing several official TDEC violations Republic has accumulated in the last 27 months.
Instances of exposed solid waste, leachate outbreaks, inadequate erosion control, improperly-handled tires, unsatisfactory litter control and an incomplete annual engineering report were all mentioned.
Barrett said the region would not need to rely on this expansion to increase landfill volume because Canon, Coffee, Rutherford and Warren Counties only produce about 30 percent of the garbage within Middle Point.
The remaining 70 percent of waste comes from other counties across the mid-state.
“The current six to eight year life could be extended to 18 years based solely on the region’s needs,” said Barrett on the projected maximum capacity date of Middle Point.
The landfill currently takes in trash from 27 counties across the mid-state, according to a QnA document published on Republic Services’ website.
She also revealed her reasoning as to why the location of the expansion would not positively affect the surrounding environment.
The proposal would also cause the need for an update in the City of Murfreesboro’s road improvement plans to be able to classify East Jefferson Pike a “minor arterial road” designed to handle a heavier traffic flow.
The updates, necessary due to the area’s rapid growth, would likely increase the cost for said improvements to take place.
Republic was also short in 2018 on their financial assurance for the eventual closure of the landfill based on the state’s required amount of $147 million dollars. Republic only offered an assurance of $64 million.
The state’s assurance number shifts annually based on market costs. If Republic doesn’t hold up its end of the deal, the cost falls onto the city, county or state, according to Barrett.
Her approved resolution expresses the board’s opposition to the application with the data to be sent to TDEC for review. It also references the region having yet to reach its recycling and waste diversion goals.
“I want everybody to take a hard look at this because BFI has not done Rutherford County no favors,” said board member Jim Bush of Cannon County in agreeance to Barrett’s statements. “They’ve been a nuisance to the people of this county.” His remarks were met with applause from over 40 residents in the seats of the county’s historic courthouse.
The entire board voted in favor of Barrett’s drafted resolution to be sent to TDEC for consideration with the presented supporting documentation.
Nolen also made a motion to reject Republic’s expansion request based on location, stating that the applicant is asking for more land than they’re properly zoned for.
His motion was also unanimously approved by the board, which has set its next regular meeting for Monday, Nov. 8 in Cannon County.