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Closed Landfill Draws Growing Environmental Concerns

THREE BROTHERS, Ark. -- A closed landfill, along the Missouri and Arkansas border, has some residents concerned about potential environmental threats.

THREE BROTHERS, Ark. -- A closed landfill, along the Missouri and Arkansas border, has some residents concerned about potential environmental threats.

The NABORS landfill is owned by the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District, which is made up of six counties in northern Arkansas: Baxter, Boone, Marion, Searcy, Carroll and Newton.

Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, who sits on the OMSWD board with other elected officials in the district, says the waste at the landfill goes well beyond what is underground.

"I think what a waste of all the work that's been done here," says Judge Pendergrass. "And what the facility did offer to the County and the District."

Pendergrass says when the funds ran dry, the landfill was closed, and the OMSWD filled for bankruptcy in 2012.

"They did not require all of the members of the District to bring their trash here," says Pendergrass. "And when they figured out the cost, they took it elsewhere."

Pendergrass says a number of problems remain now like an "overfilled" mound or cell made up of trash.

"We have to keep pumping leachate out of keep it from going into our surface water, creeks, and lakes," says Pendergrass.

"That's a problem because it puts more pressure on the lining, it can rip that lining and make leachate leak," says Citizens for Clean Water President, Dan Cohee.

Cohee says in addition to pressure being put on the plastic membrane that collects water run off, he says the leachate could be seeping into the porous ground below.

He says stagnant rain water also poses a threat in the hundreds of left over waste buckets on the property.

"If you have West Nile virus all around, and you haven't got it here yet, having more mosquitoes increases the chance that's going to happen," says Cohee.

The District is attempting to sell off the bins, along with the trucks used to carry off garbage, to pay for maintenance at the landfill. Bond holders who helped foot the bill, however, believe they are entitled to any "rolling" liquated assets.

"The people that own those bonds, they want their money back, and who can blame them," says Pendergrass ."But the District has no way to pay for it."

The fate of the bins will be settled in bankruptcy court, but the state has allocated funds for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to clean up the mounds.

"Either relocating it or coming up with engineering solution for the area," says ADEQ Deputy Director, Ryan Benefield. "It will have a synthetic or clay surface on it... we'll have to put a gas collection system in."

The Deputy Director says ADEQ will continuing monitoring the site monthly, but he can't estimate what the lengthy clean up will cost, or if pressure is being put on the lining below the mound.

"That's something we'll be looking at, for the long term closure of the site," says Benefield.

Judge Pendergrass estimates the clean up will cost roughly $5 million; money he says ADEQ will look to get back following the final closure.

"Somebody is going to be liable for the landfill for 30 years minimum," says Pendergrass, "and we don't want it to be just Baxter County, we want everyone involved in here to be a part of that."

ADEQ says it isn't aware of the Department receiving calls regarding an increase in Mosquitoes in the area.

Deputy Director, Ryan Benefield, says ADEQ hopes to hire someone in a month or so to help maintain the site, once the district can no longer afford one.

Benefield says over the next month the Department also hopes to get an engineering plan in place for the "overfilled" mound, with construction taking place by the Spring of next year.


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