Commission plans public hearing on landfill expansion
During its work session Aug. 8 and business meeting Aug. 15, the Franklin County Commission continued discussions pertaining to Franklin County Land Management’s proposal to seek major permit modifications to the ADEM SWDF Permit No. 30-04.
A public hearing regarding the proposed landfill changes is set for Sept. 22, 5-9 p.m at the A.W. Todd Centre, 201 Washington Ave. SW, Russellville. People wishing to speak at the meeting should email county administrator Leah Mansell at firstname.lastname@example.org by 4:30 p.m. Sept. 21 to be added to the agenda. Speakers will be scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.
The permit modification under consideration would allow for a local landfill to expand from an industrial landfill to a municipal solid waste landfill.
Mansell explained the difference: “Municipal solid waste is waste that comes from homes, institutions and small businesses. Industrial waste comes from the production of consumer goods, mining, agriculture and petroleum extraction and refining.”
FCLM attorney Bob Rogers was present at the meeting and has spoken at prior commission meetings regarding the proposal.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management must approve the application. The change, if approved as requested, would allow for bringing in garbage to the landfill from outside of Franklin County.
Specifically, the primary objectives of the permit modification are the following:
- Allow for the construction and operation of Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Units as defined by ADEM Admin Code 335-13-1-.03(89).
- Allow for the acceptance and disposal of municipal solid wastes, industrial wastes, construction and demolition debris and other water types authorized by the ADEM Division 13 regulations for disposal in a municipal solid waste landfill.
- Expansion of the facility’s service area to include all cities and counties in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
- Increase to the facility’s maximum average daily volume to 1,000 tons per day.
- Increase the facility’s acreage for waste disposal from 45 acres to a maximum of 467 acres.
The Franklin County Commission has performed a review of the application and has made a preliminary determination that it is relevant and consistent with the Franklin County Solid Waste Management Plan and in compliance with Alabama Code 22-27-48 – and, thus, scheduled the Sept. 22 public hearing.
The purpose of the hearing will be to hear and consider public comments about this proposed application. People commenting will be allowed five minutes to speak.
“If ADEM approves, it still comes back to you (the Franklin County Commission),” explained Rogers. “There are other entities that have got to approve. This is the first step.”
Franklin County Commission attorney Roger Bedford explained that only if ADEM approves will the commission sit down and negotiate.
ADEM could choose to approve the application as presented or, alternatively, approve a portion or a modified version of the application, Rogers explained.
“All you’re really doing is approving their general plan,” explained John Simmons, president and principal engineer of Southern Environmental Engineering.
The proposal has sparked some backlash in the community, with those opposed rallying on a Facebook page and making calls to their commissioners.
Randy Schultz, who lives near the landfill in question, spoke during Monday evening’s meeting.
“The garbage disposal business has become an incredible money-maker in the U.S.,” said Schultz, “as evidenced by the number of large national corporations that are actively proposing and placing landfills across the country.”
He said he has more than 30 years of experience as a chief financial officer for public and private companies as a financial analyst and due diligence coordinator for domestic and international corporate acquisitions.
“Given that experience and the money involved, I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, and it looks like the county can actually profit more by running the landfill itself,” he said. “We have the fees from all local needs families and the savings from the cost of long haul to Hillsboro and the fee paid to them for accepting our garbage.
“I reluctantly offer whatever expertise I have to help with the evaluation and to ensure that we are not leaving significant amounts of money on the table that our citizens clearly need,” he added.
Schultz said he feels strongly about his preliminary conclusions.
“I think we’d be considered derelict in our duty if we do not take time to properly evaluate other alternatives; just like the owner of the current proposal, you can find the firm that will guide you and still be independent.”
Schultz added he wants “to be helpful and avoid potentially the biggest financial blunder the county has ever had.”
“If we don’t stop and evaluate the situation for a year or so, we will never know what we allowed to be taken away from our citizens and given to a private company,” continued Schultz. “Most private entities require about a 40 percent profit. We’re letting that profit flow out of the county and the governmental entity without even evaluating what the decision situation would look like if we run it ourselves.
“I think Mr. Hargett (owner of FCLM) has his own engineering firm looking at it. Why don’t we have one, and why don’t we do a financial analysis to decide what the best solution is?”
In a letter dated July 28, 2022, the Franklin County Commission wrote:
“Under Section 22-27-48.1 of the Code of Alabama, solid waste management facilities that are seeking to make modifications to their ADEM Solid Waste Disposal Facility Permit are required to obtain local host government approval.”
Along with the letter, the Commission included the section of the Code of Alabama referenced therein, which can all be viewed at the Franklin County Commission office.
To review copies of the local solid waste management plan and application, contact Mansell at 256-332-8850 or visit the Franklin County Commission Office at 405 Jackson Ave. N., Russellville.
Additionally, written concerns may be submitted to the Franklin County Commission at P.O. Box 1028, Russellville, AL 35653.