Poplar Springs work remains on hold

Loudon County Commission held a special called meeting Monday after a workshop to continue talks on the old Poplar Springs Landfill remediation, which ultimately ended with a 5-5 tie.
Work was put on hold at the Aug. 7 meeting in response to an exorbitant amount of legal fees and services taken out of the Poplar Springs Landfill post-closure reserve.
Expenditures largely came from Nashville-based Luna Law Group PLLC.
As of Monday, Budget Director Tracy Blair said the reserve had $213,000, which does not include $15,000 in pending legal services. Just four years ago, the reserve fund was $437,968.
Commissioners Leo Bradshaw and David Meers motioned and seconded, respectively, to move forward on the project, with “no” votes coming from Kelly Littleton-Brewster, Earlena Maples, Matthew Tinker, Harold Duff and Van Shaver.
“My vote is ‘no’ and I feel like I think everyone knows my feelings on it, but I feel like Mr. (Herb) Newton has not shared in the responsibility,” Littleton-Brewster said. “I will not disagree the fact that it does need to be fixed, but I feel like Mr. Newton has not shared any responsibility. I feel like that JW Luna did not negotiate to the best of the county or ... for the three entities. So I will stand by my vote and say that I hope we know where that money’s coming from.”
If the county moves forward with remediation, it will be on the hook for maintaining the property for 10 years.
Both Shaver and Tinker agree Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation needs to determine the responsible parties.
“I really from day one wanted to hear TDEC say, ‘Loudon County, stakeholders, you all are responsible for 90 percent of this, 80 percent, 100 percent of this’,” Shaver said. “But we volunteered. I didn’t have a problem with getting that kind of a statement. I do understand that this vote we’ve just taken is certainly a very major type of a vote. We’ve heard all of the doom (Loudon County Attorney Bob) Bowman has shared with us. We’re again rolling the dice just like we did when we asked TDEC to come in to clear us the first time.”
TDEC determined in 2015 there was no major contamination of soil or groundwater on the old landfill site.
Bowman, who was present Monday night, said the state would likely issue a show cause. He claimed TDEC was “frustrated” with the county.
TDEC Director Patrick Flood at a June 2016 meeting said the state would send an order for all potential responsible parties and require a court to deem responsibility.
“I think that our action to this date by requesting the tests, by employing the lawyers, by getting TDEC involved, that all that does show that, yes, we are aware of the problem,” Commissioner Bill Safferfield said. “Yes, we were initially going to correct this. Now we are not going to do anything. So we can’t plead ignorance over what’s gone on because we’ve already stepped in. We’ve made efforts to fix it. Now the other thing that does concern me if — big if — if we are summoned with a show cause that the end result is going to be a heck of a lot more than we anticipated.”
Hopes are to recoup $30,000 from the state, County Mayor Buddy Bradshaw said Monday. Initial plans for the project were sent back to be altered, which resulted in additional expenditures.
“We are confident the state will reimburse that money in an amended request,” he said in a follow-up interview.
With Monday’s tie vote, Buddy Bradshaw said he expected to hear from TDEC this week.