Landfill Treatment Line
Several days ago, I was approached by a concerned constituent regarding a project that has been ongoing for quite some time here in Carthage. I was asked to look into the project and try to help keep an agreement with the city and the county regarding a proposed landfill treatment line. To understand how I must legally communicate in these scenarios, I may always speak with just about anyone except city council members and the city mayor, due to Tennessee Sunshine Laws. My desire is to have this discussion with the towns input with our elected officials and in the meantime, report to you, my constituents, what I found out.
As everyone knows, Carthage is home to the county landfill. Many constituents spoke of this landfill, many not so favorably. The fact of the matter is that this landfill exists and it is something all of us have inherited. My opinion on the matter is to do the best with what we have and in the meantime, look out for the taxpayers dollar and the environment.
The landfill completely operates like a business. Like a business, it brings in revenue from commercial industries which pays for the administration, public dumping, treatment, etc. From what I am told, the landfill does not take in any tax revenue and is completely self sufficient. The benefit to us is that we can dump our garbage at no charge should we deliver it to the dump, the bad part is, well, there is a landfill within our city limits.
As landfills operate, layers are put down over each level, so as to not contaminate the nearby land and water. But runoff does happen, this is a fact. We don’t want to contaminate our environment, especially our rivers. So how do we treat this runoff?
All runoff is drained into a holding pond, which is treated by chemicals. Over a half a million gallons of runoff water is treated every month into a water known as Leachate. This Leachate consists of water and a chemical known as Revive NGB, which I was given the chemical list for and has no known significant effects or critical hazards to the environment. In Smith County, this water is treated well above the required standards and then pumped through a hose into a second holding pond, where it awaits transport.
Once in this holding pond, the leachate awaits transportation to be treated a second time through Carthage’s Sewer Plant. This transportation currently happens by a 4,000 gallon truck. This truck transports the leachate over to Carmack Avenue, where it is pumped out into our sewer system with a 3” hose. Once in the sewer system, the plant re-treats the leachate and then it is then pumped into the Cumberland River.
With the way this is currently dumped represents quite a few problems. The transportation to the sewer is a venture that costs the landfill around $12,000.00 a month. Additionally, should something happen to the truck during this transportation, we will have a worse problem. This truck dumps this into our sewers 3 times a day and when the manhole is opened, it stirs up some very foul smells which are released into our neighborhood, giving off an odor in which many of you described to me during my campaign.
So what do we as city residents get for this county waste being dumped into our sewers? We get free access to the landfill, which averages out to around $35,000.00 in savings over the past 3 years. We also have to pay to treat this waste, which treating it at the rate of 4,000 gallons at a time could create a potential bottleneck. The solution? A new treatment line known as the “Force Main”.
The Force Main will eliminate the need to transport 4,000 gallons at a time into a residential area, stirring up raw sewage and trickle into our sewer system at a rate of 3-4 gallons a minute. This line will lower the holding pond levels to be able to withstand a large rain or runoff in the event we need the holding capacity. A shutoff valve will be located at the landfill, at the request of the city sewer treatment plant, to stop the flow should a heavy rain occur. Additionally, all of this is underground.
The line will run along the power easement and the digging has already been approved by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, otherwise known as TDEC. On site will be a weld inspector along with an environmental professional during the entire digging, placement, welding and filling. I asked about the pipes being used, would they leak? Would they be able to support this flow? Would this harm the environment? I was then shown the pipe they would be using.
The pipe is a 5” DOWN pipe. It will also be double walled, to explain this, the above pipe will be encased in another pipe similar, offering double protection.
What is the cost of all of this? A huge concern for me. Not only do I not want to save city tax revenue, but county as well. The entire cost of the project will end up being give or take $500,000.00. Who is going to foot the bill? The landfill. As I said before, the landfill operates as a business, this is money I am told the landfill will be providing. Not a penny of taxpayer money will be used.
So to justify $500,000.00 as a business? It currently costs the county $12,000.00 a month to haul the leachate to our sewer system. Divide $500,000.00 by $12,000.00 and you get 41.36. The project pays for itself after 41.36 months, or around 3.5 years.
Looking at all of the data, we are looking at the following facts:
Piping instead of trucking treated water to our sewer system for a second treatment.
Saving $12,000.00 a month as a county.
Saving $11,000.00 a year as a city.
This is where you have to make your own decision. Do you feel this is a more viable economic option? Do you feel this is a more viable environmental option? Is this a win or lose situation. What do we stand to lose should we not continue forward with this project?
I am only the messenger here and my goal is to reach an agreement to where the city and the county can work together. My loyalty stands with you, the constituent and taxpayer, and my opinion must match that of which I ran on: Transparency, Community Involvement and watching out for your tax dollars, which includes finding as many ways possible to save them. That being said, here is what has occurred which I feel you as the public need to be made aware of.
On December 7th, Carthage City Mayor Sarah Smith sent a letter to County Mayor Jeff Mason, invoking the right to cancel the agreement within 30 days made between the City of Carthage and Smith County, which was signed on February 22nd, 2016 by both sitting mayors Michael Nesbitt and Donnie Dennis. This would effectively terminate our agreement, meaning our city no longer takes in the leachate and begins to pay for trash at the landfill. While we would not be processing the water anymore, we would have to pay out around $11,000.00 a year at $37.00 a ton.
In response, County Mayor Mason sent a letter to Carthage Mayor Smith stating that our waste would be charged $200.00 a ton, effective after the 30 day cancellation. The 30 days ends on January 6th, 2019.
We currently dump around 300 tons of city waste. Multiply 300 tons by $200.00 and you come up with $60,000.00 a year.
The city council was set to have a public meeting about this issue at noon on December 18th to discuss, but this was postponed until January 3rd, at noon, which I feel is not giving the public enough time to be informed about what we stand to lose here.
I am of the opinion of a few things:
One, I feel the public should hear these details. I would like to hear what you think about all of this.
Two, I feel we should move forward with this project personally as if we don’t, we are looking at an additional $60,000.00 in costs for us every year. Additionally, I’d like the more environmental sound approach of piping this into our sewer system. Not only that, but I think this will help reduce some of the awful smells we all endure on the north side of the town.
Three, I feel we need to work with the county where we can. If this was something I felt hurt the city, I would fight it tooth and nail. I think this helps and we should work where we can with them. None of us like having the landfill where it is, the issue is that we have inherited this issue and we need to find cost effective ways to be more environmentally sound while reducing inconvenient odors.
Please let me know what you think and call your council members and county representatives on this issue and let them know as well.