As a consulting engineer for the past 39 years and as a land owner adjacent to the landfill proposed by Mr. Burke Wall, I feel a civic and professional duty to inform this community about the proposed facility under discussion:
First, landfills are permanent. Once they are allowed, they will always exist unless another publicly funded “Superfund Program” is enacted to remove or correct their existence.
Second, a current landfill is basically a basin in or on the ground constructed with both clay and synthetic liners. In this case, a synthetic 60 mil high-density polyethylene (HDPE) liner is proposed over 2 feet of compacted sand clay over a 268-acre basin area.
Third, all landfill liners leak. It has been observed and reported by others a new HDPE liner, as proposed on this project and constructed with the very best quality control, will still leak at the rate of 20 gallons per acre per day. Clay liners leak both through advection and diffusion.
Fourth, because all landfill liners are known to leak, the state requires two distinct and separate landfill liner systems in current landfills. With the utmost of human care, the landfill, when constructed, will leak. For this reason the state also requires the basin be equipped with an under drain system. This under drain system, termed a “leachate collection system,” is required by the state in an effort to remove the liquids emanating from the garbage deposited. The current state standard limits the liquid level in the basin to 30 centimeters (1 foot) or less of depth during normal operations.
The collection and removal of the leachate liquid is intended to minimize the pressure of the liquid upon the liner systems with the intent of minimizing the quantity of leachate leaking into the ground and groundwater. The leachate is a liquid mixture of all chemicals compounds disposed through the solid waste collection system. Additionally, when these chemical compounds come into contact with each other, chemical reactions occur between the compounds and bacteria consume some of the compounds. These reactions and consumptions produce by products which are impossible to accurately predict. These “by products” include liquids, solids and gasses.
The leachate liquid waste may contain toxic chemicals, heavy toxic metals, which will never break down, carcinogens and pesticides/herbicides. The leachate may be toxic to biological wastewater treatment plants if the leachate contains sufficient concentrations. The treatment of toxic chemicals and heavy metals typically requires the use of a physical chemical treatment process. This process involves the introduction of chemicals to the waste stream designed to convert the toxic chemicals and heavy metals to precipitate (or have them fall out) of the liquid containing them. The problem with the physical chemical treatment process is the precipitate sludge is often dewatered and the dried sludge is disposed in the landfill.
At a recent community meeting, the developer indicated the expected leachate production rate of this proposed facility would be 150 gallons per day per acre. That equates to 40,200 gallons per day at build out, or about 12 truck loads per day containing 30,000 pounds each with no clear plan for how or where the leachate would be ultimately treated and disposed. The quality and concentrations of toxic substances in the leachate are unknown and vary over time. The cost to transport and treat leachate is therefore hypothetical, making revenue projections entirely speculative.
Fifth, leachate collection systems fail for four different reasons: silt; microorganism growth; chemical precipitation; and chemical attack.
Sixth, all landfills outgas. A study of 356 landfills in California showed 67 percent discharged one or more of 10 toxic gasses selected for testing (particularly carcinogens) at levels known to be harmful to humans. In all, off-site migration of gases, including methane, was detected at 83 percent of 288 landfill areas tested. Any citizen who has ridden down Little Neck Road between I-16 and Hwy. 17 can attest to the smell, or out gassing, of a landfill that is constructed and operates within current state requirements.
Seventh, landfill operations are noisy, adding to ambient noise pollution
Eighth, landfill operations require heavy trucks to deliver the collected solid waste. These trucks are not closed and are not water tight. They regularly drip liquid wastes upon the roadway and wind often removes trash, particularly Mylar grocery bags and other lightweight materials, depositing these wastes upon the right of way as an eyesore. Additionally, these trucks back onto the clay face of the landfill to deposit their loads. When they leave the landfill, the clay adhered to their tires soils the roadway.
Ninth, landfills are natural attractants as a food source for vermin. These vermin include birds and mammals of all types. The existence of the vermin also attracts their predators. The vermin and their predators are vectors for the spread of parasites and disease.
In spite of all these facts, numerous Bryan County residents are living very near this proposed landfill. They have enjoyed church services on the adjacent land for more than 115 years. Many of them are frightened by the prospects of living near a landfill and living with the problems it will cause. Their property will lose value, in the sense that no one in their right mind would buy it.
Who among you desires to drink the water from local wells when you have been warned the liner is leaking? Who among you will want to breathe the air when you have been told 67 percent of landfills outgas toxic vapors and in 83 percent of those hundreds tested, the vapors migrated to the adjacent property? This community would be imprisoned in a toxic nightmare. This nightmare was not in existence when they located to their property.
The developer stated the landfill operations would continue 12 hours per day, six days per week, with a 500-foot setback from the church. Imagine for a moment attending church with the landfill in operation 500 feet away, smelling the waste, hearing equipment run, with their OSHA-required back-up horns blaring during prayer or other meetings.
State law defines a public water system as any system serving 25 or more people 60 or more days per year. Olive Branch Baptist Church, therefore, has a public water system. A public water system may not be located within 1,000 feet of a landfill. Why? The state recognizes the potential danger to the public water supply caused by a landfill. There is a broader risk potential (to more people) when one public well becomes polluted than when one private well is polluted.
I would remind all citizens of Bryan County, profit-driven people caused the “Superfund Clean Up” costing billions of taxpayer dollars after harming thousands of otherwise innocent adjacent property owners and occupants.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, (1) “Any infringement which interferes with the property Owner’s expectations concerning the use of a parcel is a taking, which entitles the Owner to just compensation.” This property owner has no valid expectation a landfill will be permitted because rezoning is first required. (2) “All property in this country is held under the implied obligation that the Owner’s use of it shall not be injurious to the community” (emphasis added). This second point has been used to close pre-existing and active businesses injurious or offensive to the community.
There are numerous alternative sites available for development of a landfill that are not surrounded by concentrations of residential developments or a church as occurs in this community. It is unthinkable to situate a landfill operation among residential developments to effectually provide a time bomb of toxic or carcinogenic exposures injurious to the entire community for the benefit and unjust enrichment of one private investor.
The developer asserted in the meeting at Olive Branch Baptist Church that there are no other sites suitable within four or five adjacent counties for the construction of a landfill. In my professional opinion, that assertion is totally invalid. He also stated he began purchasing this property in 1986. The property was zoned such that he could have had no expectation of constructing a landfill upon it, and that zoning remains in place today.
The developer points to existing landfills that are surrounded by developments as justification for placing his landfill among existing developments. People may choose to live where they like, including on earthquake fault lines, in fire-prone areas, on coastlines subject to tsunamis or hurricanes with the knowledge and expectation they are willing to accept the associated risks. The residents of our community chose otherwise. The adjacent land owner’s use of his property should not be injurious to ours.
Conversely, I assert with many of my neighbors as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, “Any infringement which interferes with the property Owner’s expectations concerning the use of a parcel is a taking, which entitles the Owner to just compensation”.
The citizens of Bryan County and their administration should note with particular interest the second quoted citation issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, namely, “All property in this country is held under the implied obligation that the Owner’s use of it shall not be injurious to the community.”
It is in keeping with these long established principals of law that property rights with respect to property value, clean drinking water, clean air, noise pollution and a healthy environment should not be diminished or infringed upon by others without just compensation.
Theoretically, the primary purpose of zoning is to segregate uses that are thought to be incompatible. In practice, zoning is used to prevent new development from interfering with existing residents or businesses and to preserve the “character” of a community. If this landfill property is rezoned to allow its proposed use, the character of our community will be destroyed and the primary purpose of zoning in Bryan County will become null and void of any credibility.
In closing, at Monday’s meeting with hundreds of concerned citizens present, not one person, except landfill representatives, spoke in favor of allowing this landfill in our community. The proposed rezoning is incompatible with our community. It should be situated elsewhere.
Nivens is a consulting engineer and resident of Black Creek. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.