The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has approved the City of Dothan's application for the renewal of its landfill permit, paving the way for the city to move forward with either an expansion at the site of the current landfill in east Dothan or some other option.
The renewal notification comes about six months after Dothan's application and more than four months after a public meeting was held in Dothan to receive public comments from those in favor of and opposed to the permit renewal.
The renewal does not serve as an endorsement of a particular site for the construction of a new or expanded landfill, simply a green light for the city to continue disposing of solid waste.
Dothan's current landfill will reach capacity soon. Last year, the city weighed several options related to solid waste disposal, including expansion at the current site, constructing a new landfill at another place or transporting garbage out of Houston County. According to numbers provided by the city's public works department, expansion at the current site was the least costly.
However, residents of the Burkett subdivision and others who live near the landfill have fought the expansion option, claiming they have been impacted by unsafe groundwater and asserting what they believe was a promise from city administration many years ago to move the landfill.
In December of last year, Dothan's Board of Zoning Authority declined to approve an exception that would have allowed the city to move forward with expansion at the current site. However, the issue went to court and a local judge ruled the city does not need zoning board authority because solid waste disposal is a governmental function and not a proprietary function.
Also last year, the City Commission voted to approve a $15 solid waste disposal fee for city residents, which officials said encompassed the collection and disposal of solid waste, expansion of the city's recycling program and costs associated with the city's vector control, including spraying to control mosquitos and other actions.
Dothan officials have said no final determination has been made about next steps in the city's solid waste disposal needs, but time is running out. With ADEM's renewal of the permit, the city could move forward with a work session to discuss options again, which likely consist of expansion at the current site or the construction of a transfer station to haul the garbage elsewhere.
During the June public meeting, ADEM recorded comments and questions from residents and provided a response to the relevant questions. Below are a few comments and responses:
- Complaints were made about foul odors coming from the landfill
ADEM response: The Department conducts periodic compliance inspections of the landfill to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the landfill permit. During these compliance inspections, the inspector also checks for the presence of unusual odor at the landfill. To date, the ADEM inspectors have not noted any odors at the Dothan Sanitary Landfill uncommon to typical Subtitle D landfills.
- Is the department required to notify the public living near the landfill about compliance issues concerning the landfill?
ADEM response: Certain enforcement actions conducted by the Department including the issuance of warning letters and notices of violations are not required to have public notice. Compliance issues that result in the issuance of administrative orders or unilateral orders which include a penalty are required to have public notice in accordance with State law.
- Comments from the public indicated the landfill provided a hazard to the health and safety of nearby residents due to groundwater contamination and other issues.
ADEM response: To date, records indicate that the City of Dothan Sanitary Landfill has had no significant noncompliance issues with its solid waste permit, thus there is no basis to conclude that the Permittee will not comply with the terms and conditions of its permit renewal. Should the Permittee fail to comply with its permit, the Department is committed to vigorously enforcing the terms and conditions of the permit.
- Some residents questioned the monitoring of groundwater near the current and old landfill.
ADEM response: In this case, the City of Dothan Sanitary Landfill has reported detections of certain constituents in the on-site monitoring network at the referenced facility. At this time, the city is investigating these findings in accordance with the ADEM Admin. Code 335-13-4-.27.
According to ADEM rules and regulations, the renewal can be appealed by "any person aggrieved" by the decision.
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