The pending decision to authorize or deny a permit request to open and operate a new local Class 1 rubbish site is one step closer to resolution, following a public hearing conducted April 19 before the Marion County Board of Supervisors.
The previous local solid waste debris disposal site was located at the Columbia Airport, which was shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration due to the site's proximity directly at the end of the runway.
Property owner Greg Prine, who owns the tract of land and is seeking authorization to construct the site, admits that he initially had "no interest whatsoever" in considering the rubbish site venture. However, after fully researching all the requirements, mandatory oversight and potential risks involved in this particular type of site, he said the process has changed his mind. Prine said there's definitely a need for this kind of facility in the area, based simply on the amount of construction and renovation going on in the area. Contractors and developers must have a legally designated place to dispose of their qualified debris, and right now they're having to haul it considerable distances, such as U.S. 49 north of Hattiesburg or in the Magnolia area west of McComb.
According to Prine, the benefits of having a local site for this type of debris would far outweigh any potential downside or risks, particularly since it would be under the constant monitoring of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
In fact, he said, a Class 1 site would actually be a safer alternative with tighter restrictions than a Class 2 site because of the additional monitoring parameters required. Since a Class 2 site is strictly designed to allow only natural, storm and vegetation debris like limbs, leaves, etc. – there are no additional inspections required that could quickly identify potential violations and demand remedial actions in the case of a Class 1 site.
Prine was accompanied at the hearing by Ken Ruckstuhl, a consultant with Environmental Management Services, who Prine hired to assist with the permit application process, as well as to ensure the proper adherence to legal guidelines and MDEQ policies and procedures.
Although the entire piece of Prine's land at the location spans approximately 500 acres, Ruckstuhl said only about 200 acres is expected to be suitable for use in the rubbish site project. He explained that, to qualify for use, the specific area must be above the flood plain and meet all the other stringent soil and sub-grade requirements.
"At this point, we're only looking to begin developing about 10 to 20 acres," Ruckstuhl said. "That may be expanded as time goes by and needs arise, but there will always be a minimum 200-foot buffer zone retained along the perimeter of any property line and keeping all existing vegetation to reduce any impact of dust or noise, etc."
Ruckstuhl added that all burning of debris is absolutely prohibited, along with dumping of any type of household trash and/or anything not specifically listed on the acceptable debris list.
The hearing also provided the opportunity for the board to hear from a couple of landowners whose properties border the proposed site, both of whom expressed legitimate concerns about the possible impact of reduced property values resulting from the general stigma often linked to the public's view of having most any type of landfill or disposal facility located nearby.
Kent Cook represents the Audrey Moore estate and the interests of his extended family, as it pertains to their tract of land that's located adjacent to the proposed site along the east side.
Cook, who assumed the role of overseeing the property following his father's death in January, mentioned concerns about security at the site and the prevention of random unauthorized dumping that would violate the terms of what's allowed to be discarded at the site.
Although trespassing violations cannot be ruled out, Prine said the site already has surveillance equipment, which would remain active to deter an violators, as well as record any unauthorized entry or activity.
Bill Lowe, another property owner who has built a home and lived in the vicinity with land on both sides of the river for the past 20-plus years, shared the concerns of sacrificed property values. Lowe said he has obtained estimates of a 12-15% drop in property values when entities such as a landfill or dump are introduced into the immediate area.
Unfortunately, no one at the hearing was able to offer a 100% guarantee of any future developments that might occur years down the road. However, as a long-time homeowner, Lowe naturally raised several concerns regarding the future welfare of his property.
Prine verified that this is not some tricky process of trying to amend the current waste site regulations, but rather a two-phase procedure that is specifically designed to be fair to everyone concerned.
Upon taking the matter under advisement on April 19, the board is allowed 30 days to respond with its decision on adding the proposed facility to its Solid Waste Management Plan. If approved, the proposal will proceed to the second phase of applying for a permit from the MDEQ to operate the Class 1 site.