Atmore officials oppose landfill

Published 10:29 am Monday, April 4, 2011

Atmore city officials believe if county commissioners vote to allow the construction of a 5,100-acre landfill in Conecuh County it will be detrimental to south Alabama groundwater.

Conecuh Woods Landfill developer Jimmy Stone addressed the Conecuh County Commission and those in attendance at a public hearing in mid-March about the project and also tried to dispel some of the rumors about the landfill. He noted that the landfill would not be the largest in the country — or even the largest in the state. Of the 5,100 acres on the property, located just off Alabama Highway 41, about 6 miles north of the Interstate 65 intersection and 23 miles north of Brewton, 1,600 acres will be for the landfill and the rest will be designated as buffer zones or industrial property, he said.

Atmore Mayor Howard Shell and Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Staff were in attendance at that meeting, and both spoke out about the proposed landfill Friday afternoon.

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“It’s just a matter of time,” Shell said. “There is no way they can build one that will not leak, and with the trash coming in from all over the United States, there’s no telling what will be dumped in to it. It would be a matter of time before the water is contaminated like has happened in so many other areas around landfills throughout the country.”

Staff agrees, adding that he believes the landfill could contaminate water on into Florida.

“I think it would be a disaster,” Staff said. “I can’t see how it could possibly help anybody south of the landfill. Our aquifer, where we get our water, comes right underneath that, and there’s not a landfill in existence that doesn’t leak. It could potentially contaminate water all the way into Florida.”

Staff also questioned why the Florida Environmental Protection Agency has not voiced its opinion on the project after giving the city so much trouble with its Pine Barren Watershed project.

“I can’t understand why the Florida EPA held our drainage project up for three and a half years and all we had was storm water run off and they haven’t said a thing about this landfill, much less oppose it,” Staff said. “I don’t believe the water run off would be clean by the time it made it to Florida. How much harm is going to be done to the ecosystem from Conecuh County to the Perdido Bay?”

When Conecuh Woods first filed for application to build its landfill, the Atmore City Council adopted a resolution “strongly opposing” it and sent the resolution to the Conecuh County Commission. Other cities, such as Repton led the charge.

Shell explained how the water aquifer leading to the City of Atmore and numerous other areas could be breached.

“The water aquifer comes down under the proposed site serving Escambia County is one reason,” he said. “But not only the City of Atmore, but Baldwin and Mobile counties and the different cities all around them that have opposed this landfill. We sincerely hope that they will vote against it and let it go somewhere else, and not contaminate south Alabama.”

The water aquifer also runs through Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve, prompting representatives with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to also express their opposition of the landfill’s construction.

Conecuh County Commissioners have set an April 18 vote on the landfill, three days prior to deadline. According to state law, if commissioners do not vote on the proposal within 90 days of the application being filed, it would be approved.

Staff said those commissioners would do their constituents an injustice if they vote “yes” on the project.

“They would be foolish representatives of the public to vote anyway but no after witnessing that public hearing,” Staff said.

Hundreds of people crowded Reid State Technical College during the public hearing. Four hundred people, most speaking out against the proposed landfill, signed up to speak during the meeting.

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