Uniontown residents roar over landfill

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2003

For Johnny Lee Flowers, it’s a matter of saving a county. For Mary Schaeffer and Emma Beasley, it’s about the glass of water they’ll drink in a few years.

On Thursday, April 17 at 6 p.m., the Alabama Department of Environmental Management will host a public hearing at R.C. Hatch High School on a proposed landfill to be constructed less than a mile from the city limits of Uniontown. Based on the arguments made and the participants involved, ADEM will make a final decision on whether to allow a Perry County incorporation to build the landfill in Uniontown.

Schaeffer, a school teacher in Uniontown, has taken on a lead role in helping fight the landfill project.

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Only problem is, the numbers may not matter.

Flowers, chairman of the Perry County Commission, has worked on this landfill project for 12 years, and he already has pre-approval of the landfill from ADEM.

A group called the Central Alabama Waste Authority, chaired by long-time Selma City Council President Carl Morgan Jr., worked tirelessly to find land and a builder for an incinerator that would serve counties throughout the Black Belt.

Scott Hughes, spokesman for ADEM, said his office has spent a lot of time studying the planned landfill, and long before the April 17 public hearing, ADEM did an intense review up front.

Apparently, a group called Perry County Associates LLC &045;&045; which will build the landfill &045;&045; has appeased ADEM.

A Small Idea Gone Large

When Flowers and members of Perry County Associates &045;&045; basically, a governmental group that would run the landfill &045;&045; decided to apply for a landfill permit, they went small.

Because of that, Perry County Associates went ahead and requested a permit for the most amount of waste they can bring to the landfill &045;&045; 7,500 tons a day.

Upon hearing about that extraordinary limit, Schaeffer and Beasley said they were caught off-guard. They thought the landfill would accept only 1,200 tons a day.

What Schaeffer viewed as a quiet move to add more tons of waste to the incinerator turned into concern about what will happen to her hometown. In a petition she has generated with nearly a dozen other residents, Schaeffer listed a litany of concerns she has about the landfill.

Among those are: a lack of notice to property owners; a lack of disclosure from the county; public health issues such as the West Nile Virus from an increase in mosquito population; and a lack of knowledge about the contaminants in waste that is dumped in Uniontown.

Communication the Key

Flowers, who lives in Uniontown, said he is concerned about the opposition to the landfill because no one has approached him about the matter.

For Flowers, this project is about helping save Perry County. It also, apparently, has become an issue of misinformation.

Yes, money is an issue in the landfill, but Flowers said people have taken the permit and 7,500 tons a day out of proportion. According to the financial structure of the landfill, Perry County will receive $1 for every ton of waste brought to the Uniontown landfill. On top of that, the county will receive 5 cents for every ton, which must be used for road maintenance. "We want to put a four-lane from Highway 80 to Marion with that money," Flowers said.

Most impressive about the $1 rate is the amount of money Perry County could generate from the landfill. If 7,500 tons were brought to the site every day for a year, the county would stand to make $2.74 million a year.

And getting those 400 tons a day won’t be a cakewalk.

Still, no one can predict what will happen with the site. According to the permit filed with ADEM, Perry County Associates have requested that waste be allowed from Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

What’s Next?

Once the public hearing is held on April 17 at R.C. Hatch High School, ADEM will take notes recorded by a court reporter and study the transcripts. If there are problems, or if an issue comes to light that wasn’t previously considered, ADEM will review the Perry County Associate’s permit again.

However, ADEM’s Hughes warns that street or historic or property value concerns will carry no weight at the public hearing.

If ADEM finds nothing wrong with the application and permit, Flowers said the project will begin in 30 days.