Dothan may finally begin using its expanded landfill soon after an almost-decade-long saga with adjacent landowners was effectively settled by an Alabama Department of Environmental Management Commission ruling Friday.
The commission rejected a hearing officer’s report filed in May recommending the disapproval of a permit modification issued by ADEM to the city of Dothan for construction and operation of its landfill expansion after hearing arguments from lawyers representing Webb Road residents, the city of Dothan and ADEM’s office of general counsel.
Ultimately, the commission unanimously supported Dothan’s legal counsel, Buddy Cox, and ADEM attorney Todd Carter’s argument that the city obeyed ADEM’s regulations regarding permit approval and “substantially complied” with analyzing and providing groundwater elevation data.
Contingent upon ADEM’s final inspections of the landfill’s new construction, City Manager Kevin Cowper said Dothan may be able start dumping at the site as soon as July.
“This will save us money because it costs more to dispose of the garbage in the private landfill than it will in our own,” Cowper said Tuesday.
The city was on track to get the landfill construction project off the ground since 2012, when it committed to purchasing 182 acres to expand the existing landfill and finally purchased it in March 2014.
Since the landfill closed due to capacity concerns in May 2014, the city has transferred its garbage to a collection point, where a contractor has carried it to a privately owned landfill in Campbellton, Florida. The cost of the contract, based on tonnage, began at between $70,000 and $80,000 per month but has approached $1 million per year recently.
The project has been derailed many times since 2014 to resident opposition and legal challenges.
Two previous permit modifications granted for the landfill expansion in 2016 and 2017 were rescinded by ADEM after residents exposed errors in the notifications provided by ADEM to adjacent landowners.
Before the June 12 hearing, the Dothan landfill hearing record amounted to 1,800 pages, representing 24 witnesses and more than 100 exhibits, briefs and objections.
Environmental lawyer David Ludder argued at the Friday hearing on behalf of seven clients, pleading with the commission to uphold the hearing officer’s recommendation.
His clients, all property owners near the landfill, opposed the landfill for many reasons. Among their concerns was that the landfill expansion would cause a variety of issues to them and their properties.
In a December 2017 “request for hearing to contest” filing by Ludder, landowners complained that the landfill would:
» Generate “fugitive dust” that would affect vehicles and homes.
» Produce odors that are harmful to their health.
» Attract animals like vultures and insects that have been known to carry diseases.
The current landfill expansion project, nearing completion, has cost around $6 million. It adds about 8.3 acres to the landfill, but the city has another 12.3 acres designated for two future cell expansions. The current project is expected to extend the landfill’s life by about 20 years.
The total size of the landfill after expansion will be about 522 acres.