LETTERS: Landfill questions have disturbing answers

The article in the Feb. 20 Marion County Record was a good start to understanding Subtitle D Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) landfills. But other questions and issues need to be taken into consideration before we decide whether to proceed with the application for a landfill at the Martin Marietta Quarry.

Question: How long have Subtitle D regulations been in effect?

Answer: Since Oct. 9, 1993. As our nation and its citizens became increasingly aware of their environment and its fragility, the local “town dump” gave way to burying household garbage and then trying to isolate it by laying down thick layers of clay soil.

Starting in the 1970s and continuing throughout the 1980s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded research which showed that burying household garbage in the ground poisons the groundwater.

In 1991 the EPA issued new regulations that became effective in October 1993. We are still using those regulations today.

This was the first “technological” attempt at keeping the chemicals (leachate) and other environmentally hazardous materials from polluting ground water. Technology has grown so much in the last 10 years, yet improvements to solid-waste landfills remains unchanged.

Question: Are Subtitle D MSW landfills safe?

Answer: Although the Subtitle D regulations of the early 1990s were light-years ahead of what was previously used, it is not without its problems and flaws. Scientific research shows that Subtitle D landfills will eventually leak. The current landfill design will only delay what was happening in the unlined landfills-contamination of groundwater.

Question: Can hazardous waste go into the Subtitle D solid waste landfill?

Answer: Large quantities of hazardous waste that are typically stored in large drums cannot go to a Subtitle D landfill. But household hazardous waste-things that we throw into our trash bags such as insecticides, pesticides, solvents, paints and paint products, oil, cleaning solutions…and the list goes on and on-can go into the Subtitle D landfill.

We have so many more chemicals today than we had 30 to 40 years ago. In fact, there are more than 65,000 chemicals in U.S. commerce today. About 1,000 new chemicals are being developed each year.

Of those chemicals, only about 200 are regulated and measured in studies of MSW landfill leachate-contaminate.

Do we really know how all of those chemicals that end up in a landfill react with each other? Probably not!

Do we know how potentially new chemicals from chemical reactions react on the liners? Probably not!

Question: What kind of leak detection systems do Subtitle D landfills have?

Answer: They have groundwater monitoring wells placed around the perimeter of the landfill. What that means is that no one knows there has been a leak of the leachate until it shows up in the groundwater monitoring well!

There are no wells directly under the landfill, so a leak has been happening for a long time before it is even detected.

Are they required to fix the leak? Not really. They are only required to clean up the groundwater. The spacing between the groundwater monitoring wells could easily be several hundred feet. It is very possible that a leachate leak could pass between two monitoring wells.

Question: How far above the water table must the bottom of the landfill be?

Answer: At least 5 feet.

Question: What would be the source of solid waste to be located in the landfill?

Answer: If, as proposed, the vast majority of the trash going into the landfill would come from Sedgwick County-Wichita.

Question: Why would a solid-waste company want to site a landfill at the Martin Marietta Quarry?

Answer: Because they were invited! Could it save them money? They would not have to haul their trash as far as they currently are doing.

According to KDHE, there have been no “new” Subtitle D landfills permitted in Kansas since the new regulations in 1993. Why? Because most people can see and understand the problems, liabilities and risks involved with a landfill.

Question: What are some of the possible problems of having a Subtitle D landfill at the Martin Marietta Quarry?

Answer: An obvious problem would be blowing trash. We’d have trash at the city ball parks, the cemetery, the Pizza Hut, the hardware store, other businesses in the industrial park, at John Deere and at the State Highway Department facility.

Other problems: truck traffic and road damage, noise, odor, decreased property values, angry residents who live near the landfill, contamination of groundwater, financial burden on future generations, landfill gases, leachate leaks, liner replacements, and money to maintain the landfill.

Question: What are some of the possible benefits to Marion and its residents if a Subtitle D landfill is permitted at the Martin Marietta Quarry?

Answer: Money, money, money. Yet the city’s negotiating team stated the financial benefits did not outweigh the potential problems and risks associated with the landfill.

If there was as much money to be made in having a landfill as we are led to believe, then why aren’t other communities and counties knocking down the door of waste management companies, begging for them to come to their communities?

Landfills are not “money-making projects.”

Question: Would each citizen of Marion see a reduction in taxes?

Answer: Probably not.

Question: What is “financial assurance”?

Answer: Some type of guarantee that money will be available to cover all costs-up-front costs, land acquisition, permitting, environmental impact studies, facility construction, operation and maintenance costs, capital costs, interest payments, “hidden costs,” site-closure costs, post-closure care, cleanup costs, lawsuit costs, retirement and health benefits for current employees.

Some of these costs could easily still be applicable 50 to 100 years from now!

Question: Do the citizens of Marion and Marion County really want a landfill right next to the city?

Answer: There is only one reason to allow a landfill to come to our community: money. But it’s money that will be here for a short while, will answer some of our immediate needs and then will be gone to provide future generations with nothing more than a toxic problem. And yes, it will eventually become toxic.

No one will deny our community’s need for money. We have seen our taxes increase and still no significant dent in our economic needs. But I truly believe we are a community that is willing to sacrifice and plan for a better future, and the answer does not come in the means of a landfill.

There is an abundance of information everywhere about landfills. It is not difficult to find or understand. This information will tell you that all landfills will eventually leak, that all landfills will cause some degree of permanent contamination to the environment, that all landfills stink (how appetizing for the Pizza Hut customers), that all landfills cause litter (not a good selling point for new businesses considering the industrial park).

I truly believe no one in this community wants to make a bad decision, to condemn our environment and to see our future generations pay the consequences. Those in favor of the landfill sincerely believe it is safe, and, after listening to KDHE and the Waste Management Authorities, it does sound quite inviting-and that we can receive monetary gain that will cause us no harm.

The representatives from waste management companies are not telling us the whole story. If they did, they would never find a community to accept their offer.

Landfills are not the solution for our disposable way of life. As long as communities continue to accept a few pennies for the destruction of our environment, the appropriate steps to deal with this enormous problem effectively will never happen.

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