on Poplar Springs
After putting the brakes on remediating Poplar Springs Landfill last month to better clarify who bears responsibility for repairs, it appears Loudon County Commission has its answer with a letter from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw received a letter Sept. 1 from TDEC Director Patrick Flood, who claimed Loudon County did have a stake in the matter despite not owning the property.
“Regardless of property ownership, Loudon County retains liability under the Solid Waste Disposal Act for the wastes disposed of in the Poplar Springs Landfill,” the letter reads. “... Failure to proceed with the outlined repairs and maintenance required under the Closed Landfill Grant program would leave the Division with no option but to proceed with enforcement action.”
Such action could include a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per day for violation of the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act, according to Flood’s letter. The letter continues that TDEC is concerned if improvements are not made, waste could “physically wash out of the site and leachate could contaminate ground water potentially posing a risk to human health and the environment.”
“That could be extremely expensive (to be fined) $5,000 a day, and how long it would take to get started and get it corrected, I mean, yeah, it’d be a whole lot more than what it would cost to pay the contractors to fix the project,” Commissioner Leo Bradshaw said.
“It just makes sense” economically to complete the work, he added.
“It’s just not a good decision to back away from that, so I support it fully,” he said. “The only thing left now is signing the contract and having the work completed. So it would be a bad decision not to do that in my opinion.”
County commission in June 2016 approved a state grant to help conduct repairs, but in August the governmental body deadlocked at 5-5 moving forward after learning about an exorbitant amount of legal service charges spent on the project.
“I think the letter did state TDEC’s stance on it and as far as any further questions from any commissioners I’m not real sure if there are two or three that are still looking for any answers or not, but I think the letter we got from TDEC is the response that we were waiting to hear from them as far as their stance on the issue and their wanting to proceed with the project,” Steve Harrelson, commission chairman, said. “I think they stated that pretty soundly that they do want us to continue taking of any issues that we have at the Poplar Springs Landfill.”
The state has given the county until October to make a decision. Harrelson anticipates a motion will be made at next month’s meeting.
“I think it’s prudent on county commission’s part to go ahead and finalize any answers — if there were any questions that anyone might still have out there and let’s go ahead and proceed with doing the work,” Harrelson said. “Back in June of ‘16 I voted to accept the grant and proceed with the project and the last time we took a vote I took the same stance that I’m comfortable with where we’re at as far as getting the project going, getting the repairs done and taking care of any issues we have at the landfill.
“I think as soon as a few more commissioners get some answers to the questions I believe we’ll have a positive vote to proceed and won’t have any issues dealing with TDEC or penalties or anything like that,” he added.
Plans are to continue with contractor JD Anderson if commissioners vote in favor, Harrelson said.
Initially, plans were for work to begin in late August or early September.
“Last I heard the group that was going to do the work wasn’t going to be able to start on Sept. 1. They were going to delay two or three weeks,” Harrelson said. “So with that understanding if we can get a positive vote to proceed (during the commission meeting) Oct. 2, then Anderson, the company that’s going to do the work, won’t be far behind at all, maybe just a couple of weeks at the worst.
“... Commission took a positive proactive response to the landfill issue at Poplar Springs back in June of (2016) and there have been a couple of hiccups in the road, but I think it’s going to be the prudent thing on county commission’s part to go ahead and proceed with the project as we voted back in 2016 and take care of this issue and hopefully protect the issue of all Loudon County citizens,” he added.