Poplar Springs residents worry about green liquid seeping into river from closed landfill
Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
LOUDON — Residents of the Poplar Springs community recall the area was named for the trees that grew in abundance and the numerous freshwater springs that bubbled up from the ground. A large tract in this remote part of Loudon County became a landfill in 1973 and went into the hands of private developers after its closure in 1987.
Now some say they’re worried the old landfill site could be hazardous to their health.
Ray Chadwick has lived within walking distance of the landfill for 34 years. He worries about the residual effects on the land and the health of those living in the area. He said he’s had a hard time getting information about the potential hazards. “I’ve been to the county commission and the waste disposal commission meetings but nobody will tell me what is going on,” he said.
Chadwick said he has observed a green and brown liquid seeping from the ground on the site of the former landfill. The mysterious liquid flows directly into a creek that flows into the Tennessee River less than a mile away. The creek enters the river just above the water intake for Loudon Utilities, he said.
A depression in the land has been filled with dirt more than
once but continues to sink and fill up with water. In some
spots, hillsides have given way to landslides that expose
green-colored liquid seeping out of the soil, he said.
Chadwick said he remembers claims of illegal dumping by a local company at the closed landfill about 20 years ago. There have also been ground fires that seemed to erupt spontaneously, he said.
Several municipalities, including Loudon County, Lenoir City and the city of Loudon, were involved in the operation of the landfill. All three are currently involved in unspecified legal action regarding the landfill.
It has been difficult for residents to learn more about the legal action. The waste commission has met in a closed-door session at least once to discuss the issue. A public records request for all emails, reports and other documents related to the landfill will require 30 days to be fulfilled, according to Loudon County attorney Bob Bowman.
During an April 18 meeting of the solid waste commission Aileen Longmire, former commission member, questioned the board about legal expenses totaling $18,000 for December 2013. Chairman Steve Field said the expenses were paid to three separate law firms representing the county, Lenoir City and the city of Loudon. The matter is still under review and subject to the attorney-client privilege, he said.
Longmire and Chadwick said they are concerned about whether the proper post-closure procedures are being followed. They are also concerned that the fund created for post-closure, now managed by the solid waste commission, won’t cover the costs to remediate the land.
According to a 1993 audit of the solid waste disposal commission, $437,968 was put aside for the cost of closure and post-closure at the landfill. Field, during a May 13 commission meeting, said approximately $470,000 was set aside by the governmental entities for post-closure costs at the landfill.
TDEC is not routinely inspecting the landfill, according to spokesperson Shannon Ashford. “Since it was closed before the 1990 regulations, it is not subject to post-closure requirements. TDEC is not aware of a specific post-closure account associated with this site,” she said.
There is a new division grant program for historic landfills with problems, she said. Within the program’s stipulations, this program could provide matching assistance or a portion of assistance to the county on planned remedial actions for the subsequent fiscal year, Ashford said.
By 2003 the property was valued over $3 million and deeded in the name of Tellico Lake Properties LLC, a company owned by financially troubled Maryville developer Mike Ross until it went into foreclosure. Capital Bank acquired the land in foreclosure in 2012. An LLC by the name of Loudon County Farms purchased the property on June 11 for $679,000, according to the Register of Deeds.
The LLC lists Knoxville attorney W. Michael Baisley as registered agent. A representative from Baisley’s office said all information concerning the LLC was confidential.
Loudon County Mayor Estelle Herron did not respond to a request for comment about the landfill.