‘SLAM’ group hopes to shut door on landfills

The new anti-landfill group in Marion County known as SLAM-“Stop Landfills Around Marion-is so tired of the perceived failures of elected officials that it has elected no officers, and has no plans to do so.

Group members’ anger at what they see as the solid-waste disposal plans “being run down our throats” is strong enough now that they tell you electing officers will have to wait.

The first 100 SLAM yard signs have gone up, and the group has another ordered 100 more.

Member Harry Bennett said the closest thing SLAM has to officers may be the fact that he and Shirley Groening co-sign checks for the group from the account which receives donations at Tampa State Bank.

“People just step forward to take on projects as needed” in the group’s work. Besides the financial duties taken on by Bennett and Groening, Bill and Debbie Darrow took care of getting the signs made. Judy Wegerer volunteered to send information to the press. Diane Costello attends Marion City Commission meetings, and so on.

Wegerer said the first SLAM meeting with 35 members was Dec. 10. Participants planned to distribute the signs and form committees. She said they discussed transfer-station issues and the efforts of others to reopen and expand the old Marion County landfill southwest of Marion, and to open a new regional landfill in the Martin Marietta Quarry north of Marion.

The group also watched a movie, “Taking Back Our Town.”

Bennett said SLAM members believe current solid-waste issues are the result of continuing efforts by large solid waste disposal companies, such as Brown-Ferring Inc. (BFI) and Waste Connections, to circumvent proper application procedures and proper open public meetings to get what they want.

For instance, he said, none of the companies desiring to have a landfill near Marion has ever filed the required environmental impact statement.

Bennett said many SLAM members believe persons involved in negotiations for an interlocal agreement between cities and the Marion County Commission to pay the balance owed on the county’s contract with KC Development, operators of the transfer station in Marion, are stalling to keep the transfer station company weakened.

“They believe a weak transfer station will help bring a landfill in,” he said.

Bennett is highly critical of-and said his group shares an anger toward-the Sedgwick County Commission for abdicating its authority for solid-waste management to take the easy way out by turning its problems over to the large landfill companies.

He said: “It would be environmental justice for them to handle their own problems. I think our own county commission is doing this the only way it can (with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment judgment against it): using an engineer it is comfortable with, and then throwing its road and bridge guys in to do the work.

“But the Sedgwick County Commission is saying, ‘Find us somebody weaker to pour our garbage on. Find us some suckers. Just find us a hole in the ground for our trash, and blow it by the local population.’

“The Marion City Commission had them here for $1.50 a ton, I think. But then they had a rural county in Oklahoma, some poor people I believe, that did it for 25 cents a ton. I’m not sure, but from the Wichita Eagle, that was probably 150 acres or less, and they had to use their 25 cents to build a hard surface road into it. It won’t last long.”

Bennett said the counties Marion cooperates with in the regional solid-waste authority all are “in the same boat now” with landfills they once used closed and trash going to transfer stations.

Everybody has to do something with the solid waste, Bennett said, and “there are various levels of discussion going on.”

“But,” he added, “don’t we want to be masters of our own fate?”

Bennett said members of SLAM are hopeful that the yard signs are doing two things for them. First, he said, the sign promotes name recognition for the group. Second, they are making a political statement that may affect the public and politicians- that the person who owns the yard the sign is in feels strongly about the issue.

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