Conecuh landfill vote Monday

Published 9:15 am Monday, April 18, 2011

Nearly five years of fighting will culminate Monday in the vote of five Conecuh County commissioners — but the debate over whether a massive landfill should be built will likely not end there.

Commissioners will vote at a special 9 a.m. meeting on an application from Conecuh Woods LLC, which seeks to build a landfill on 5,100 acres near Repton. Disposal cells would be located on 1,600 acres of the property.

Developers and supporters of the project have argued that it would bring needed revenue and economic development potential to Conecuh County. Supporters have said it would hurt the environment in the region and affect the water supply as well as negatively impact property values.

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Monday’s vote follows a 90-day period filled with petitions, public comment, engineering reports on the project and a public hearing that drew hundreds of people — the vast majority of whom were opposed to the landfill.

“I can’t see a vote other than a no vote,” said Johnny Andrews, chairman of Citizens for a Clean Southwest Alabama.

But Andrews’ group, which has been fighting the landfill since January 2007, will continue to fight it if the landfill is approved, he said.

“We’re going to sue them,” he said. “It will be in the hands of (our attorneys).”

A Conecuh Woods spokeswoman said the project should be approved based on its benefits to the county.

“This project is in the hands of the Conecuh County Commission and they will decide if it moves forward,” Rachel Dickinson said. “The economic benefits of this project are substantial and the opponents have failed to raise a single valid environmental or safety concern. Our project has been scrutinized in detail over the last three months and not a single factual reason has been raised to justify not going forward. These type of decisions are usually based on the facts, not who can scream the loudest, and we hope that precedent is followed on Monday.”

Regardless of the CCSA fight against the landfill, even with a “yes” vote the future of the project is somewhat uncertain because of a moratorium announced in March by Gov. Robert Bentley, which bans large landfills until the Department of Environmental Management and state health department can develop new regulations for them.

Legislation instituting a similar two-year moratorium has been proposed in the Legislature by state Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton. Baker said Thursday he expects the bill to be taken up after the House deals with the general fund budget next week.

“It would include any new permits and any new facilities, and it would apply to any landfill that has not reached the final approval stage in the ADEM permitting process,” Baker said.

That would include the Conecuh Woods project.

Conecuh Woods officials have said the governor’s moratorium does not affect the project.

With just days before the vote, landfill opponents have continued to urge residents to voice their opinions.

“If there is a yes vote, it is forever,” Repton Mayor Terri Carter said.