Commission OKs landfill

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2005

An 1100-acre regional landfill bitterly opposed by many residents of Perry County took another giant step towards becoming reality on Tuesday morning.

The Perry County Commission, in a unanimous vote by roll call at their Tuesday morning meeting, adopted a resolution approving the Commission’s proposed Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP). The current draft of the Perry County SWMP, one of which is required to be submitted to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management every ten years and was first made public in November, calls for “the construction of an inert landfill within [county] jurisdiction by 2014.”

“The proposed landfill site,” says the SWMP document, “is approximately 1100 acres and is located approximately one-half miles southeast of Uniontown…The size of the site, its proximity to the Uniontown Industrial Park, and the fact that the site’s subsurface geology includes several thick, dry, relatively impermeable layers of Selma Group chalks were critical to its selection.”

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At a public hearing in Uniontown last January 19th, opponents of the SWMP and its landfill proposal turned out in large numbers to voice their concern and anger. According to statements made by Perry County Commission Chairman Johnny Flowers during the Tuesday morning meeting, the comments made by residents at the hearing have been typed up and included in the plan for its submission to ADEM.

“The comments have been added at the back of the Plan,” said Flowers, in the form of an appendix. “We have also included a copy of our responses to those comments. The public comments have been responded to on a point-by-point basis.”

Flowers praised Commission attorney Natasha Meadows for her drafting of the responses.

“There’s no legal jargon,” said Flowers. “Anyone who read the responses will be able understand them.”

It will be a little while before those disappointed with the Commission’s decision will be able to decide that for themselves, however. The SWMP will have to be sent back to the publishing company, Volkert and Associates, to have the comments, responses, and appendices not available in the earlier public draft added before it is released to ADEM and the public. A release date had not been finalized as of Commission meeting.

Although the SWMP does now include the public’s concerns for ADEM’s perusal, the body of the plan–including the specifications for the landfill–has remained unaltered.

“The Plan itself,” said Flowers, “has not changed.”

That is has not is likely due, in large part, to the SWMP overcoming two of the largest roadblocks discussed by opponents during the public hearing.

One was that Perry County’s City Councils would object to a Plan that had been drafted and applied without their consent. (Although the SWMP states that “all the municipalities in Perry County have chosen to participate,” many residents, including vocal Commission critic Cynthia Maddox of Uniontown, argued in January that this was not the case.)

Opponents also hoped that Uniontown representatives would object to the landfill’s proximity to Uniontown city limits. But according to Flowers during the meeting Tuesday, the Commission had received letters from both Marion and Uniontown giving their consent to the SWMP.

Flowers also doused opposition hopes that ADEM would find fault in the document.

“ADEM has said there are no problems with the Plan,” he said.

That agency remains, however, the final hurdle for the landfill to clear. ADEM must still inspect the proposed site to gauge its impact on the environment and the area’s water quality. If it fails to meet federal and state environmental standards, either a new site would have to be found or the project would die.

Calls to Flowers’s office and to several known opponents present at the January hearing had not been returned as of press time. One Uniontown resident declined comment until the updated SWMP had been made public.