Loudon County mayor promises to give details on landfill tests
Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
LOUDON — Newly elected Loudon County Mayor Buddy Bradshaw said he wants all information about problems at the Poplar Springs Landfill released to the public as soon as possible.
“I don’t see any reason to keep this from the citizens any longer,” said Bradshaw, who campaigned on a platform of greater transparency in government.
Bradshaw said before taking office he had heard only rumors about the old landfill, which operated from 1973-1987. Since September he has visited the landfill twice, including Friday, when he accompanied Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials who took water samples and spoke with locals using well water.
Bradshaw said he will release the results of the tests as soon as they are received by the county.
Residents living around the landfill have complained for years about liquid leaching from the landfill into the local watershed. Ray Chadwick, who has lived near the landfill for 34 years, has spoken before the county commission several times asking for information.
He said he’s encouraged by Bradshaw’s efforts to release information, but he still wants to see the results of the TDEC tests.
The situation at the landfill has been one of the most closely guarded secrets in county government since it was revealed during a Solid Waste Commission meeting in January that an $18,000 payment was made to an undisclosed law firm in December 2013.
In June, county attorney Bob Bowman denied an open records request from the News Sentinel asking for documents related to the landfill and the identity of the recipient of the payment.
Loudon resident Aileen Longmire said for the past year she has been stymied in trying to get more information. During a Saturday morning meeting at Hardee’s in Loudon, she questioned Bradshaw about the payment.
According to Bradshaw, the entire $18,000 went to Luna Law Group, a Nashville law firm. He said the firm specializes in environmental law. He said the Luna report included hundreds of pages outlining potential liability for the county.
“The liability depends on what’s going into the water. It could be as little as $40,000-$60,000 to move some dirt around or much more if they find something bad in the water,” he said.
Bradshaw said he wants to make the Luna report available to the public but not without the permission of other stakeholders, including the city of Loudon and Lenoir City.
Bradshaw said on his two trips to the landfill he was surprised to see the land in fairly good shape, with healthy vegetation and the wildlife flourishing. There are some areas where landslides and erosion have disturbed the surface.
“The retention pond will also need some work,” he said.
The remediation plan will depend on the results of the TDEC tests and will be up to the county commission, Bradshaw said. About $430,000 is available through a separate account controlled by the Solid Waste Disposal Commission, he said.
“I have friends that I go to church with that live there. I want to get this out in the open and get it taken care of,” he said.
Earlier this year about 600 acres, including the landfill, changed hands when purchased by Herb Newton. Before that, the land was owned by Capital Bank and acquired through foreclosure on failed developer Mike Ross.