Tough choices… Landfill Committee debating over future of Carter Co. landfill

Published 3:59 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

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Carter County leaders are facing some difficult decisions about the future of the landfill in the year ahead, including the possibility of increasing usage rates again.
“It’s a simple fact that we are going to have to make some decisions on the landfill. Are we going to keep it open or are we going to close it?” said Gary Bailey, District 6 commissioner and chairman of the Carter County Landfill Committee. “If we are going to keep it open, we are going to have to have land to sustain it. Or are we going to run it as a transfer station.”
The landfill, located at 169 Landfill Road, is expected to reach its capacity in 2029.
Brad Burke, former finance director for the county, shared a study with commissioners in 2021 explaining that the life expectancy of the landfill was shrinking and commissioners must either expand by purchasing adjacent land, seek a new 300-acre site or consider other options. Commissioners raised rates in 2021 and are considering additional rate increases in 2022 to either fund an expansion or offset transfer costs.
“We are going to have to make some choices. What do we want to do going forward?,” Bailey asked committee members during Monday’s meeting.
Currently, the landfill charges $52 per ton to dump and then hauls trash to the landfill in Blountville, where the county is charged $19 per ton to dump.
The landfill processed 70,000 tons of trash in 2021, an amount that is not expected to decrease.
Solid Waste Director Benny Lyons said the lack of options is a challenge for the Carter County landfill. “We used to have three landfills that we could deal with on pricing,” Lyons said. “One landfill has bought the other landfill out so there isn’t any competition there any more. The other landfill is in Bristol and they are arguing about the smell, so who knows how long they are going to remain open.”
With the need to repair the floor in the transfer station and the possibility of needing to purchase additional land, commissioners are faced with the possibility of raising rates again in the upcoming year.
“I don’t know anybody that has their bills increase that doesn’t pass that on to the public,” said Ginger Holdren, District 5. “If we are getting our rates raised annually, I don’t see us having any other choice but to do the same thing. If we want to move in the direction of purchasing land and keeping a landfill, I think additionally we have to set aside some money to do that. I don’t know what choice we have. I don’t know how we can keep sustaining an increase every year ourselves without doing something.”
District 3 commissioner Mark Tester agreed. “Whether we like it or not, if we are going to stay in the landfill business, we are going to have get your rates where it can sustain itself,” he said. “You are going to have money in the budget for capital improvements. If not, you are not going to have money to purchase new equipment, land, and no money to sustain the old landfill …  That is roughly $150,000 a year, which is not going down or going to go away.”
District 1 commissioner Mark Blevins disagrees. “I don’t think that we need to jump the gun right now. We don’t need to raise the rate on people right now.”
Mayor Patty Woodby said there is a possibility that the landfill will have to look at other arrangements of where to take their leachate. “If we could get the City of Elizabethton to take that from us, we could save $100,000. That is something that needs to be addressed.”
Leachate is any contaminated liquid that is generated from water percolating through a solid waste disposal site (landfill) accumulating contaminants and moving into subsurface areas.

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