TONTITOWN, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – State regulators are joining Waste Management in a legal effort to stop attempts by the City of Tontitown and some of its citizens to halt the expansion of its landfill.
The Eco-Vista Landfill in Tontitown, owned by Waste Management, is Northwest Arkansas’ only major dumpsite for waste, and wants to expand.
But as KNWA investigated in November, it’s looking to do so against the wishes of city leaders. The city’s mayor, Angela Russell, and a group of citizens told KNWA that they believe the landfill’s gases pose a health risk to residents, and that regulators at the state’s Division of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, aren’t fully investigating their complaints.
“They may be listening, but it doesn’t seem like they’re doing anything for us,” asserts Russell.
Russell says it was frustrating when DEQ issued the Eco-Vista Landfill a class 4 permit to expand its operations in March.
“They [the landfill] did not have the support of the city,” says Russell. “We have two resolutions to let them know we do not support you.”
The Tontitown city council agreed unanimously to these resolutions, which passed in November and January. But these resolutions were either ignored or dismissed by DEQ, who did not reply to KNWA’s request for comment, other than sending a factual outline of when developments relevant to landfill expansion efforts occurred.
The city and its citizens appeal the class 4 landfill expansion
In response to DEQ’s issuance of the class 4 expansion permit in March, both the city and a group of citizens hired separate legal teams and filed separate appeals.
Kenneth Lovett, a longtime critic of the landfill, is one of the individuals leading the citizens’ appeal.
“We need to stop the landfill completely,” says Lovett. “I want to be sure that my voice is heard, and the people around the Eco-Vista Landfill’s voices are heard.”
Angela Russell says the city’s appeal, which lists a number of grievances, is focused on the lack of permission from the city. She believes the city has strong proof that the landfill operated by Waste Management, which declined to interview for this story, presents a constant nuisance for residents.
“We have pictures of nails and all kinds of debris, metal pieces, just everything all over the road, which we also send pictures of [to regulators] daily, weekly.”
Both appeals would be heard by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (APCEC,) who could render the final decision on the class 4 landfill. Russell says a rejection from them would show “they do not care about the health and welfare of the people in Tontitown.”
Appeals face resistance from the landfill and regulators
To make it before the APCEC for this final decision, the city must first overcome legal efforts from Waste Management, a multi-billion-dollar company, and DEQ, the organization responsible for regulating them.
In late April, the APCEC granted a request by the landfill to continue moving forward with the class 4 expansion while the appeal process plays out.
In a statement to KNWA, Waste Management wrote, in part, “the Commission’s action to lift the stay allows WM to reopen the Class IV landfill to customers and continue to support the infrastructure growth in Northwest Arkansas. WM is honored to provide essential service to the Northwest Arkansas region.”
Complicating things for the city and its petitioning residents, both appeals may never be heard by the commission. Both Waste Management and DEQ have filed requests to have the appeals dismissed.
This means, at the time of this writing on May 25th, that the appeals could be shut down before they receive a full hearing if the commission’s administrative law judge, Charles Moulton, sides with DEQ and the landfill.
Both Russell and Lovett have expressed to KNWA that they’re interested in continuing legal efforts to block the Eco-Vista Landfill’s expansion should their appeals fail. In the meantime, the process is also underway for DEQ to grant Eco-Vista the class 1 expansion permit it requested.
KNWA will continue to cover any developments in this case. Interested readers can follow this link to read or watch KNWA’s original special report on the issue, which details the environmental complaints the city and some of its residents are making.