Santek, solid waste officials hope to reach agreement

Jeremy Styron-News-Herald

With numerous questions surrounding Matlock Bend Landfill, Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission members, along with representatives from Santek Waste Services, are expected to begin talks to address an apparent shortfall in current collection rates to cover closure and post closure costs for the facility.

According to a recent study from Knoxville-based Geosyntec Consultants, Santek, the contractor, would need to pay a security fee of $3.86 per ton of garbage for the current landfill space to cover closure costs, and $2.46 per ton would apply for future expansion space. As per its contract with the solid waste board, Santek currently pays $1 per ton to cover those costs.

“I’m hoping we can come to some agreement for the board to have a path forward to sit down with Santek and to look at how we can change the agreement that will work for everybody,” solid waste committee Chairman Steve Field said.

Cheryl L. Dunson, spokeswoman with Santek, said officials within the company were willing to compromise on an adjusted rate.

“Santek has been in partnership with the commission since 1988, so we’ve got a longstanding relationship,” Dunson said. “We consider ourselves to be partners, and although Santek didn’t set the amount that was to be accrued for the closure-post closure account, we would be willing to sit down with our partner and try to renegotiate a equitable solution.”

Dunson said coming up with a feasible solution would likely require some “give and take” between parties involved.

“There’s always room to compromise, so we’ll sit down and put our collective best efforts together and see what we can do,” Dunson said, noting that while she did not anticipate a drawn-out debate about the issue, a solution would likely take more than a month to resolve.

“Once the (solid waste) chairman has got the directive then I think that feasibly we can come together and put down some legitimate time lines, but I don’t see it (being) prolonged,” Dunson said. “That’s not in either one of our best interests.”

One point of concern among residents and members of Loudon County Commission has been Santek’s practice of bringing out-of-county garbage to the landfill.

Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough described this as a “real concern.”

“I was told, or I assumed because we had not gotten our capacity, that that’s why they increased out-of-county folks to come and bring their garbage here so that we would have that tonnage,” Yarbrough said. “I guess we have a concern about how is that going to impact our liability — the county liability — to the landfill.”

According to the contract with the solid waste commission, Santek is able to dump waste at Matlock Bend Landfill that is within a specified perimeter of the facility. Also as part of the provision, Santek can’t accept more than 800 tons of waste per day and must operate within certain hours.

“Contractor shall also be prohibited from accepting waste at the Landfill that is transported from a location that is outside a radius of 150 miles from the Landfill without the prior written approval of the Commission,” according to the contract.

Field said Santek has been bringing in out-of-county garbage to the landfill since an agreement was reached in 2005. He said the practice has helped “tremendously” in mitigating a solid waste commission revenue shortfall that existed before 2005.

“If you went back to like 2003 and 2004, you can see that we were losing money, especially in 2004, and going through 2005 and then from there when we changed the agreement with Santek, we started putting a lot more money in the bank as compared to losing money every month,” Field said. The Solid Waste Disposal Commission was expected to receive the final report from Geosyntec during a meeting Tuesday night.

Field said he hoped that by the time the contract expired with Santek in 2027, green technologies would be affordable enough so the county could consider more environmentally friendly ways of handling waste, noting that Sevier County was currently using some composting methods.

The difference was that Sevier County, with numerous hotels and retail stores, has different types of waste materials than Loudon County, which largely consists of industrial waste.

“My hope is that there will be technologies like you’re alluding to that we can do something different and do stuff smarter, but at this point and time the most cost effective (way) to manage garbage unfortunately is to bury it,” Field said.

He said industries like Kimberly-Clark have drastically reduced their environmental footprint by transitioning to more green waste disposal methods, adding that at one time the company was accounting for 60 percent of the waste at the landfill. Today, that figure is down to about 20 percent.

“If they’re still sending us garbage next year, I’d be surprised,” Field said.