After Matlock Bend Landfill failed to meet state waste reduction standards in 2011, the Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission is moving forward with a study to take a closer look at facility operations.
The county received nine request for proposal responses for a study and planned to review the top three and make a selection this week.
Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Chairman Steve Field said the study would focus on the finances of the commission as well as the practices of Santek Waste Services, the company that manages the facility. As part of the study, Santek would be investigated to find out whether the company has been in compliance with its contract with the commission and with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation regulations.
"We're consuming air space faster than we're accruing revenue," Field said. "We don't really have a shortfall per se because the outlay of money is 20 years down the road."
The study, which will be paid through the commission's budget, will cost an estimated $40,000-$50,000.
Field said the commission's current contract with Santek runs for another 15 years. The Solid Waste Commission previously purchased about 100 acres adjacent to the current facility for $1 million that could be used for future needs.
He said the county "easily" had 50 years of potential space to use for waste processing.
"The land that we purchased wasn't purchased strictly for landfill use; it was for future solid waste needs," Field said.
Loudon did not meet a 25 percent waste reduction last year and was the highest per capita waste producer in the state, according to records from the Tennessee Department of Conservation.
Through August of this year, the county had received more than $300,000 in revenues from landfill fees and generated 198,000 tons of waste.
Lawrence Johnson, who lives near the landfill and is the father of 9th Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson, said during Loudon County Commission's meeting on Monday that he attempted to get county officials to pay attention to problems at the landfill more than a year ago.
"The landfill should have taken care of it itself if you had done and overseen the thing and done what should have been done," Johnson said.
The landfill will cost the county an estimated $7.7 million in closure and post-closure costs.
"I don't think the state's going to let you out of a liability of $7 or $8 million closing what's out there right now," Johnson said.
Johnson said he took exception to a previous claim from Field, who indicated that 70 percent of the county's waste comes from industrial users. Johnson said the Solid Waste Commission was created only to serve Loudon County, charging that the commission allowed Santek to draw from customers far outside the county.
"Mr. Field has been telling you all the time that the reason you didn't meet the reduction in garbage, the recycling, was because it was industrial waste," Johnson said. "(The) Kimberly-Clark folks have changed their whole system. Their waste right now is about 6 to 8 percent of what they've been dumping. Tate & Lyle has cut theirs back so now where is all of this industrial waste coming from?
"It's coming from the fact that the committee gave Santek permission to spread out 150 miles when that landfill committee was set up and that landfill committee was put into operation to serve only Loudon County," he said.
Field, who did not attend the Loudon County Commission meeting, said the claim that the county brings in waste from more than 100 miles out of the county was not correct, noting that the largest percentage of out-of-county waste was coming from Knox County.
While bringing in waste from other counties largely takes place at the discretion of Santek, Field said the Solid Waste Commission can step in when necessary.
"If they wanted to bring in something that was considered highly onerous, we would probably not allow that," Field said.
In an unrelated matter, Loudon County Commission went against the recommendation of the Planning Commission during its meeting Monday and approved a request that would allow 0.95 acres of property along Port Madison Drive to be rezoned from R-1 residential to C-2 commercial.
Planners had a safety concern about traffic turning left off Highway 11 onto Port Madison, Planning and Codes Director Russ Newman said.
"It sits kind of below the crest of a hill on Highway 11 and has been a relatively dangerous location for traffic, so if there is significantly more traffic generated in the future from some future use that could be a concern, and that was the basis for the Planning Commission's recommendation," Newman said.
Commissioners Brian Jenkins and David Meers indicated they recommended approving the request after meeting with the property owner and learning that he intended for traffic to enter and exit only on Port Madison.
In other business, the board:
● Accepted Garnett Hill Drive and Gunter Drive into the county road system.
● Approved appointments to the Air Quality Task Force, including Gerry Schlueter, Dennis Brennan, Bryan Crawford, Michael Crosby, Dr. Bud Guider, Sherry Lee, Commissioner Don Miller, Commissioner David Meers, Mike Slimbarski, Sam Thomas and Lewis "Charlie Brown" Gardner.
● Approved appointments to the geographic information system board, including Loudon County Tax Assessor Mike Campbell, Economic Development Agency Executive Director Pat Phillips, Patty Terry and Craig Dunn, both with Lenoir City Utilities Board, Lynn Mills and John Davis, with the Loudon Utilities Board, and E911 Director Jennifer Estes.
● Approved a recommendation to allow the Loudon County Animal Shelter to participate in a PetSmart charity and the Pets for Charities program.