Loudon panel delays action on water testing near landfill

Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

LOUDON — The Loudon County Commission on Monday postponed action on testing the water in wells around the Matlock Bend Landfill.

Commissioner David Meers removed an item from the agenda that requested commissioners vote on whether to ask Santek, the company that runs the landfill, to pay for testing local wells.

Meers said he is still interested in getting to the bottom of the water issue but he was still gathering information. He said he had been in contact with experts and was consulting with local residents to get a better sense of all the issues connected to the quality of water around the landfill.

Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough said she was interested in learning more about the water quality and why the water was never tested following allegations by a local farmer that more than two dozen head of cattle died in 2010. She said she was concerned about whether the county could be held liable if there are water problems associated with the landfill.

Commissioner Rosemary Quillen agreed that the water around the landfill should be tested. She said she would also like to see testing on a pond on landfill property that has been connected with runoff issues.

“A lot of questions and assumptions are still floating around,” she said.

Commissioner Bob Franke said he would like to get more information from the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office regarding a report a deputy made on the day the cattle deaths were reported. The report, which noted that there were 20 dead cows, also said a pond on the farm had an odor of sewage.

Steve Field, chairman of the county’s Solid Waste Commission, said he thought the qualified personnel were on site at the time of the cattle deaths. He said he trusted their judgment that the cows suffered from malnutrition and parasites.

Field suggested commissioners contact Gordon Harless, who at the time of the cattle deaths was in charge of the county animal shelter. He also told commissioners that Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation inspectors were at the landfill the day the cattle deaths were reported and that they found nothing wrong.

Loudon resident Aileen Longmire dismissed Field’s contention regarding TDEC. The agency did not inspect the area where the cattle deaths were reported, she said.

TDEC spokeswoman Shannon Ashford confirmed several weeks ago to the News Sentinel that TDEC was not involved in investigating the cattle deaths.

In other matters Monday, commissioners heard from Loudon resident Richard Anklin, who said he was concerned that a certificate of occupancy had not yet been issued for the new Fort Loudon Middle School, which is scheduled to open for classes on Wednesday. A July 15 report from the contractor listed 99 items yet to be completed, he said.

“I don’t think that school should be opened,” Anklin said.

Commissioner Don Miller said that as of Monday, neither a state fire marshal’s certificate of occupancy nor a city of Loudon permit had been issued.

Director of Schools Jason Vance said the school system has a temporary certificate of occupancy that allows for teachers to be in the building.

“I anticipate that we will get full clearance (today) after we complete a kitchen hood suppression test. This is the only outstanding test, to my knowledge, that we lack,” Vance said. “I anticipate that after this is completed we will be in great shape to have students enter the building.”