Proposed Mt. Olive area C&D landfill stirring debate in community

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This is a CBS 42 Your Voice Your Station report.

Update (2/11): Jefferson County Commission denies permit for C&D landfill in Mt Olive area

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — A proposed construction and demolition (C&D) landfill in the Mt. Olive community has gotten a lot of attention from the public.

The permit for the C&D landfill is 128 acres, 75 of which will be used for disposal.

Jefferson County leaders held a public meeting at the Gardendale Civic Center last Thursday to get feedback from the community. People inside were concerned the landfill would impact their livelihoods, while the man vying for the permit, William Cousins, says the recycling landfill is what is needed in the county.

“…Recycling is the wave of the future,” Cousins said.

But residents were firm in their belief during public comment. Shawn Bell, who lives near where the site would be, says the people who live near the site are a tight-knit community.

“We just fell in love with the country and the land,” Bell said.

Bell, along with many other residents, doesn’t want the landfill near their home.

“It made us extremely scared all of a sudden,” Bell said.

The proposal has gotten a lot of attention online. During public comments at the last meeting, attorney Greg Reid says the proximity of the landfill would be detrimental to people’s livelihoods.

“There property values are going to be adversely affected by the proximity of this landfill. They’re already damaged somewhat,” Reid said.

Both Reid and neighbor Alyssa Belcher tell CBS 42 they have gotten 200 residents who live on the road to sign a petition against the landfill.

Belcher also says the truck traffic from the landfill could cause big problems for the area, too.

But Bell believes the environmental impact is greater than the property value because she fears their well water and nearby creeks would be contaminated by the landfill.

“It’s going to go into people’s wells. It’s going into White’s Creek and Trouble Creek, which actually is the Locust Fork River, which is also known as the Little Warrior River,” Bell said.

Cousins says this C&D landfill won’t have that impact based on studies done by engineers of the well water in 2019. He says what’s been frustrating about the process is the misleading information neighbors are sharing about the plans.

“They [neighbors] weren’t worried about your well, nor were they worried about your property value then,” Cousins said. “They’re just being busybodies just trying to stop an operation, trying to stop me from doing something on my own property.”

One of the reasons residents in the area don’t want the landfill is for fear of their property value dropping. Based on studies from the Journal of Real Estate Research in 2015, it all depends on the property’s distance from the landfill and how many tons of product a landfill is using. Cousins says the permit he would have will only allow 10 tons a day.

“The purpose of the landfill will be to recycle for what’s available to recycle,” Cousins said. “At some point in time, we’ve got to start doing that in the state.”

Cousins says a construction and demolition landfill would recycle and dispose of products like concrete, metal, and wood.

“Concrete can be crushed for gravel, the metal can be recycled to make metal products with, the wood can be recycled,” Cousins said.

He says the landfill would not be open to the public as he plans to only do contract work. The landfill would also be under strict guidelines from the state once operational.

“And also being with recycling, I’ll have a recycling group come in, Cousins explained. “So, I’ve got two different state entities coming once a month to check and see what I’m doing. They don’t call and tell ya. They just show up.”

Bell hopes Cousins sticks to his word, for she and other residents still have reservations on the idea.

“We’ve been through this before with the mines and there is reason to worry,” Bell said. “People just…sometimes they just want us to be quiet.”

David Denard with Environmental Services says both sides are being considered during the upcoming vote from the county commission. Director of Public Information Helen Hays says Feb. 11 is the likely date the landfill will be on the agenda.

“I’m not here to destroy your community,” Cousins said. “I’m here to do something that your community needs to think about doing. Your state, your county needs to start recycling.”

“Let’s let them know that we don’t want contaminated water here. Water is life,” Bell said.

A county spokesperson tells CBS 42 the landfill will likely be discussed at the commission meeting February 11th.

County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens says he cannot comment on the vote at this time, but sent this statement on the matter:

“The commission is in the process of taking public comments from the community. I appreciate the participation and public comments at our recent public hearing.  Mr. Cousins’ input and interaction with the community was helpful.  The commission will make a decision within the next month based upon these comments and the need for such a recycling facility and a C&D landfill. The public comments are very much appreciated and Mr. Cousins’ long-standing relationship with the community is also a consideration.  These comments along with our Environmental Staff input will yield an informed decision.”

Commissioner Jimmie Stephens

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