Board votes no to landfill expansion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2007

JACKSON – After a long discussion, moments of contention and even a closed session for legal advice the Board of Northampton County Commissioners still came to an unanimous conclusion—no.

On Monday, the Board of Northampton County Commissioners denied a special use request to allow the expansion of an industrial landfill.

Approval of the special use request would have allowed phase two of the expansion, which included the dumping of an estimated 330,073 cubic yards of coal combustion byproducts or fly-ash over a 15.28 acre area.

Phase one of the project, which was approved by the state prior to the county having any restrictions, allowed 550,000 cubic yards of fly-ash to be dumped on the northern side of the property.

Located near Garysburg, the landfill sits on the south side of NC 46 approximately one mile east of the NC 46/I-95 exchange. The Roanoke River borders the south side of the 88-acre property, while Arthur’s Creek acts as a boundary on the east side.

In his presentation during the public hearing, Northampton County Land Use Administrator William Flynn noted a possible environmental impact to the area.

Flynn referred to laboratory results which showed fly-ash contains substances known to be harmful to humans and the environment. Among those substances listed are arsenic, lead and mercury.

“The test results show that each of the substances exist in a minute, and quite likely harmless amounts,” said Flynn. “However, when someone places 583,073 cubic yards of material that contains these harmful substances on a total of 36.98 acres of land, next to a flowing creek that empties into the Roanoke River, the chance of a negative environmental impact cannot help but be increased.”

Flynn also stated the engineer, Plumb Line Corporation owned by Eugene Grant Jr., for the applicant had submitted a plan that contains inaccurate statements, incomplete documentation and expired permits.

Flynn added his staff has also attempted to show the proposed profile of the fill site is not in compliance with the standards set forth in Sold Waste Management Regulations for Beneficial Use of Coal Combustion By-Products.

The owner of the landfill, Henry Long, also attended the public hearing to defend his side.

Long said fly-ash has been used in low grade concrete, on peanut fields and noted the employees to which the landfill provides jobs.

He also spoke about the end use of the property, a grass landing strip for small planes or a pasture.

“I think this is a benefit,” he said. “We’ve done our best to contain the fly-ash….This material has been a benefit.”

“Frankly, I’m surprised this got a favorable comment from the (Northampton County) Planning Board,” said Commissioner James Hester (D-1st). “I don’t see how it wouldn’t contaminate the creek.”

Hester added while he understood the fly-ash would be placed above the water table, he could not accept the fact that contaminants could get into the groundwater and then go into the stream.

Hester also pointed out the property with fly-ash may discourage businesses from building there.

Board Attorney Charles Vaughan said the Basnight Company, located near the Roanoke River was built upon fly-ash.

During the public hearing, O.S. Suiter Jr. and Roger West spoke of their desire for the commissioners not to allow the expansion.

“I whole heartily ask you not to approve any expansion of this project,” said West of Henrico. “We’re looking at an environmental nightmare.”

West referred to a case in his home state of Virginia where and estimated 500,000 tons of fly-ash was dumped in borrow pits over a 17-year period in sub-watershed of Chisman Creek, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay.

According to a fact sheet on the site listed on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s web site, in 1986 the United States Environmental Protection Agency completed a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study and Public Health and Environment Evaluation. The contaminants were found to have leached out of the fly-ash contaminating groundwater, surface water, sediments and soil. Those containments included vanadium, nickel, arsenic, selenium and traces of other metals.

Although drinking contaminated groundwater could have posed a risk to the public, this was reduced because the houses with contaminated wells were connected to the public water supply.

Four years were devoted to cleaning up the site. Today it is a recreational area for the community.

West added fly-ash can be made harmless through the correct process.

Suiter, an Ahoskie citizen who owns adjoining land, said he was concerned about the environmental impact as well as other repercussions—including the value of his property.

After a closed session to seek legal advice, Hester made a motion to deny the request. It was seconded by Commissioner Fannie Greene (D-5th).

The motion passed without objection.

Greene noted after the motion she lived less than two miles away from the site. She said she was concerned for not only herself but the citizens and the river.

“I’m sorry,” Greene said to Long. “I can not support this.”