Developers: Landfill would bring millions to county

Published 2:49 am Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A proposed landfill near Range in Conecuh County would generate more than $294 million for the county in host fees spread over the 63-year life of the landfill, according to an application filed by the developers with the Conecuh County Commission.

But opponents of the project have said the environmental and health effects of the landfill are too great a cost.

A public hearing on the issue is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, March 10, at Reid State Technical College in Evergreen, part of the county’s Solid Waste Plan process.

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Last month, Conecuh Woods LLC submitted a 200-page application for the landfill.

Two years ago, Conecuh County commissioners made a symbolic “no” vote for the landfill; that was non-binding because developers had not yet submitted an application.

At least one county commissioner has said he will vote against the proposal, but others have said they will wait to hear public opinion about the project.

“Conecuh Woods LLC is proposing to construct and operate a modern non-hazardous solid waste sanitary disposal facility,” the company says in its application to the Conecuh County Commission. “The facility will be designed and operated to meet or exceed all applicable Alabama Department of Environmental Management and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules and regulations.”

Ruth Harrell, chairwoman of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, said the project could have wide-reaching effects on the health of the region.

“The thick clay liner will slow the passage of the water, but it will eventually make it to one of our large bodies of water,” Harrell and other health officials wrote in a letter to the editor. “If it moves quickly, we may be the ones to drink it; if not, our grandchildren and their children will drink it.”

In the application, developers state that the lining of the landfill would meet or exceed current ADEM regulations.

The Conecuh Woods application answers many questions about the project, including its size and from where the landfill will accept solid waste.

Initially, the application states, the landfill would be developed on 250 acres, for both offices and the landfill itself. Eventually, the property would have 3,500 acres of buffer zones surrounding a maximum of 1,550 acres of disposal area.

The proposed site is located outside the 100-year flood plain of Escambia Creek, the application states. Initially, the capacity would be 300 to 500 tons per day, increasing to 5,000 tons per day within 10 years, and up to 10,000 tons per day at its peak.

The site — currently operated for commercial timber — is located 6 miles north of where Interstate 65 intersects Highway 41, not far from the existing Timberlands landfill.

The landfill would accept solid waste from states east of the Mississippi River and Louisiana.

According to Conecuh County’s solid waste management plan, the landfill application must be scored on a variety of criteria, but the score will also take into account public opinion on the issue.

If commissioners do not vote on the proposal within 90 days, it would be approved, according to state law.

State Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, has said he would introduce legislation in the March regular session that would change that law.