WALNUT - Citizens of the Town of Walnut voiced their opinions and concerns in a meeting held last Thursday, May 30 inside the Walnut Community Building.
The Northeast Mississippi Solid Waste Management Authority held a public hearing for the proposed expansion of the Buck Run Solid Waste Landfill located at 2941 County Road 302 in Walnut. The meeting and all of it's speakers were recorded and transcribed for legal documentation of the meeting's contents.
The Buck Run Solid Waste Landfill currently operates under 82 acres. The proposed expansion allots the company an extra 72.7 acres which would bring the total operation to 154.7 acres.
Regional Manager of Waste Connections of Mississippi David Green said the need for the expansion is simply a look-ahead to the future. Green stated that the plan is in place because in the future, the landfill will need more space because of the amount of trash brought to the site.
"This expansion is not something that is going to happen overnight," Green claimed. "The plan is not being proposed because we are out of space right now. But in our business you have to look down the road and have a plan in place for what is to come. In 20 years, we are probably going to need the extra space. And these things take time. That's why this is being discussed now."
Despite Green's point of view, that he shared with the 60 people in attendance, many citizens of Walnut never wavered on their stance of this new expansion proposal. Following statements from Greg Beard, an attorney representing Waste Connections, Jimmy Spencer, who is a geologist from Cook-Coggin Engineers and Green, eight speakers took the podium to voice the concerns with the expansion.
First was Keith Turner, an attorney from Jackson who claimed to represent citizens from the area. Turner noted that over 55 percent of the waste taken in at the Buck Run Solid Waste Landfill is coming from Memphis (Tennessee) and Alabama. He claimed that overall 85 percent of the waste is coming from out of the region (Tippah, Benton and Prentiss Counties). Turner stated that the expansion is purely a money grab by Waste Connections, who is a private industry taking in private waste from other areas outside the region.
"Through 2017, 142 million dollars of revenue came in through this landfill," Turner claimed. "After expenses, 86 million dollars in net (income). Of that, about five million dollars came to the host communities."
Beard, Green and Spencer each claimed those numbers were not true.
Others who spoke, like Teresa Lothenore, Robert Harris and Jim Taylor all shared a common sentiment, as the three live right beside the landfill. Lothenore told stories of her grandchildren who come and stay with her but when they go to the backyard and play they come back inside complaining of burning eyes and headaches from the odor of the landfill. Harris says he can't even drink his morning coffee on his front porch because of the stench. Taylor agreed with the smell being unpleasant and also added that citizens should be concerned that the people on Three Forks Water System are seeing an oil film on the water in their toilets. That same water is consumed by hundreds of people in the area. Taylor believes the film is caused by the landfill.
Others like Mary Nance and Billy Jeanes stood and talked about the need for resolutions. Both Nance and Jeanes noted that the landfill is a private industry that ultimately can do what they please but urged both the company and everyone else in attendance to seek out a solution to help alleviate the stinky odor and become more environment friendly.
"We have pros and cons," Jeanes said of the landfill. "Maybe the environmental agency can put some type of filters down. Vacuum systems that might could be put down to help put out that stench. We need to find the solution. There is no need in us fighting each other. We need to fight the problem."
With no timetable set, the landfill's expansion is still undetermined as to when it might happen. Jeanes and many others said that they probably could not stop the company from following through with this plan but they could go to the voting booths in this election season to see out those who allowed the landfill to come in the first place.
The meeting ended with four-minute speech from Eric Melton who repeated the pros and cons of the landfill but stated that he was displeased with the lack of opportunities given to the community to voice their concerns to the company about the smell, change in environment and other factors caused by the site.
"The thing about it is, if we would have had more opportunities to be involved with the process every time, we wouldn't have these stirred up feelings," said Melton. "Folks, this isn't going to go away."