Failed Nabors Landfill Cleanup Project Begins

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BAXTER COUNTY, Ark.– A multi-million dollar mess is finally getting cleaned up in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Taxpayers will eventually be footing the bill for the failed NABORS Landfill for decades to come.

It’s been five years since garbage was last dumped in the overfilled NABORS landfill.

“The closure took place with the problems in tact and actually worse,” Baxter County Judge Mickey D. Pendergrass said.

The group picking up the tab is the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. The price tag is $13-milion; that’s down from the original estimate of $18-million. The ADEQ started properly closing the bankrupt landfill in May. Weston Lee is the project engineer.

“Currently, the NABORS project is about $25,000 under budget,” Lee said. “As far as being on time, we’re actually ahead of schedule by a week and a half.”

You have to dig deep under the mound of trash to understand where the trouble originated. The landfill was overfilled and didn’t meet environmental regulations. Methane gas needed to be regulated and leachate, water with heavy metals, trash, and other potential chemicals, had the potential to leak into groundwater.

If left uncontrolled, leachate could have seeped into the soil and ended up at nearby Norfork Lake, which is a major water supply for the people of Baxter County. The leachate is now properly being drained and hauled to the Springfield Water Treatment Plant in Missouri to be disposed.

Three major areas of the landfill are being fixed. First, contract crews relocate the existing waste.

“The contractor has drilled gas wells to allow the release of methane to prevent  any explosures of that nature,” Lee said. “We then graded, sloped, and smoothed out the urban soils.”

Finally, closure turf is installed with sand infill. The project is expected to be complete in May 2018.

Judge Pendergrass said he’s happy to see the progress, but it does come at a cost to people who live in the area.

“Somebody’s got to pay for it, and that’s always been the issue with it,” Judge Pendergrass said.

The problems at NABORS was inherited by the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District, which includes six counties in Arkansas. The ADEQ took control because the District attempted to file for bankruptcy, but a judge said it couldn’t because it didn’t exhaust all options to fund the cleanup.

Everyone who lives in that district will have to pay back the ADEQ for the work being done now to properly close it. That means if you live in Baxter, Boone, Carroll, Marion, Newton, or Searcy counties, you’ll soon pay a yearly fee of $18 until the $13-million debt is paid off. 

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