Neighbors speak out about Tontitown landfill expansion

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TONTITOWN, AR (KNWA/FOX 24) — After several hours of discussion, the Tontitown Planning Commission has tabled a proposal to expand the Waste Management Eco-Vista landfill.

Tontitown landfill could be seeing an expansion

People who live around the landfill don’t want that to happen, saying Waste Management is not holding up its end of the bargain in terms of maintenance.

“We’ve had it in our backyard for years,” said Jami Morgan.

Her grandparents have lived right across the street from the landfill since the 1970’s. She said they have to deal with the odor, air quality, heavy truck traffic, lack of trees and litter in yards. Her grandparents keep the house buttoned up 24/7 for health concerns.

“While the landfill is part of the infrastructure, that doesn’t mean it has to stay forever,” she said.

“I want Waste Management and the leaders of the landfill to know that this landfill is not in a rural area anymore,” said Mark Calcagni, a neighbor who has lived near the landfill for 30 years. “Maybe 20 years ago it was, but it’s not anymore.”

Morgan started a petition that got hundreds of signatures of support.

They see the rapid growth in Tontitown as a reason to shut down the 600 acre landfill and move it elsewhere. However, the city sees growth as the primary reason to expand.

The costs of filling a landfill

The landfill is not add any new land with this expansion, but Waste Management has to get approval from the city before it can use more of the land it already owns.

“Inside of this zoning they are wanting to utilize 12 acers that is already zoned for this house building materials, contractors bringing things like wood and shingles,” said Mayor Paul Colvin. “That’s what the expansion is really.”

He said right now the landfill is two separate mountains of trash next to each other. Waste Management wants to fill in the empty space between the two mountain to make it one large mound.

Mayor Culvin said the landfill has been there for 40 years, and that people should know what they signed up for when they moved to or built a home nearby. The landfill has a lot of regulations it has to follow, and that more will come if this expansion approved by city council.

“Things like planting a double row of trees on the front and sides to block some of the view from the public,” he said. “And they have to work with other state agencies. I mean, it’s the most inspected industry I’ve seen in my life.”

George Wheatley is the spokesperson for the Tontitown landfill. He told KNWA/FOX24 on the phone today that they are regulated by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. He said they have had lots of inspections recently because of neighbor request, and that every time the inspectors come back and tell him that its the best run landfill in the entire state.

“We are proud of it,” said Wheatley. “For the business we are in, we think it is a necessary part of infrastructure and growth.”

The neighbors want to be part of the conversation.

“We just want to be heard,” said Morgan. “We have outlined some things we would like to see happen. If the expansion is granted, then we want to see more accountability by the city.”

The proposal will come back before the planning commission next month.

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