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Mississippi denies permit for controversial landfill proposal

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Mississippi denies permit for controversial landfill proposal

UPDATE: January 14, 2020: The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has denied NCL Waste a permit for what would have been Madison County’s third landfill. The MDEQ permit board voted 5-2 to deny the Team Waste subsidiary’s efforts, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

The decision came after the vote was postponed in December following prolonged outcry from local officials and protests from residents. Area communities have expressed concern that the county would become the only one in the state to host three landfills, when all other counties have no more than one.

Dive Brief:

  • Residents of Madison County, Mississippi are resisting plans by NCL Waste (a Team Waste subsidiary) to create what would be the area’s third MSW landfill. Community members argue the company’s proposal poses environmental justice concerns in an area already worried about impacts associated with existing landfills. Many also say the other two landfills have not reached capacity, so there is no need for an additional site.
  • NCL Waste applied for the permit last year, continuing a two decades-running fight. Under the proposal, approximately 89 acres of a 166-acre property would be designated for the landfill, near the Jackson suburb of Ridgeland. The Clarion-Ledger reported that Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba and Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee joined a protest against the landfill, alongside a bipartisan group of local officials.
  • Robbie Wilbur, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), told Waste Dive the department will consider the permit application from NCL Waste at its Dec. 10 meeting. In a unanimous resolution adopted Oct. 15, Ridgeland’s Board of Aldermen voted to oppose the site, arguing “the need for an additional landfill does not exist now or in the next twenty or more years.”

According to MDEQ, there are 18 active MSW landfills in Mississippi. No county has more than one apart from Madison, which is home to Little Dixie in Ridgeland, operated by Republic Services, and another landfill in Canton operated by the city. Madison South, which accepts construction and demolition waste, is also in Ridgeland.

Little Dixie has around 12 years left of capacity, while the Canton landfill has roughly 125 years and is in the midst of an expansion. Residents argue there is no need for the new landfill given the presence of the other two and question why Madison County is eyeing a third site. Little Dixie alone serves 30 Mississippi counties and takes waste from several neighboring states. Waste Management also operates a landfill in neighboring Scott County, which takes waste from Ridgeland and other areas.

Area realtors worry the site will decrease home values and hurt quality of life. And residents have argued another site would lead to health impacts, in addition to posing an environmental threat. For years, Ridgeland officials have expressed concern about a new landfill’s potential impacts on streams, wetlands, and other nearby water bodies.

“The landfill site is near the historic Natchez Trace Parkway and could keep people from enjoying this protected landscape,” argues a website run by Stop the NCL Landfill, a community organization opposing the proposal.

But NCL Waste’s application process is well underway. In addition to operation permissions, the company has already sought a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, along with permits for wastewater pretreatment, air emissions and a water quality certification. Attempts to contact NCL Waste for comment were unsuccessful.

Wilbur of MDEQ indicated the department is moving along with the process of assessing the proposal, although ultimate approval lies with the seven-member permit board.

“The [MDEQ] staff reviewed the comments and prepared responses that along with the original comments and the public hearing transcript will be provided to the members of the Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board [this week],” Wilbur said.

According to a meeting agenda shared with Waste Dive, all regular meeting items will be addressed first prior to the contentious landfill proposal. MDEQ staff will give a presentation on the site proposal and board members will hear from citizens about the plan.

Mississippi has been a focal point for other waste issues in recent months. In August, Jackson — the largest city in the state — ended its curbside recycling program. At that time, the city also voted to extend Waste Management’s disposal contract, which was set to expire in 2021. The contract now runs until the end of October 2025.

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