Testimony Concerning “Solid Waste Plan”

Bob Martineau, Commissioner
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue—Tennessee Tower—2nd Floor Nashville, Tennessee 37243
RE: Testimony Concerning “Solid Waste Plan 2015-2025”

Dear Commissioner Martineau:
On behalf of BURNT, the State Conference of the NAACP, and the Nashville Branch of the NAACP, we appreciate the opportunity to testify concerning the “Solid Waste Plan 2015- 2025” This is a very difficult process. TDEC staff and managers will not accept that the loop-hole ridden TCA 68-211-861 or ignoring TCA 68-211-803(a) are not serious problems. The attached testimony about Middle Point Landfill demonstrates the horrible problems of rampant odors, devalued property, and powerless citizens common to a dozen TDEC regulated landfills.
The ‘Solid Waste Plan 2015-2025’ should narrowly focus on construction waste recycling and composting. If the Tennessee ‘Solid Waste Plan 2015-2025’ is like the Georgia Plan with “GOALS” followed by three pages of “ACTION STEPS”, TDEC and the landfill companies will have another 10 years of pollution. Specific goals of composting and recycling construction waste need measurable goals and outside management.
It is much more difficult to administer the environmental part of TDEC than the parks.
Very few people sabotage the parks while many in Tennessee are still rooted in 1950’s thinking that allowing pollution is key to economic growth. Landfills and the current solid waste system employ very few people. Recycling and composting could create thousands of jobs and make money for all parties including the landfill companies. .
There is a very strong element of environmental injustice. Landfills are located where poor, rural, and minority live.
A. Distinguishing factors of solid waste in Middle Tennessee:
1. Loop-holesinTCA68-211-861(a)count waste shuffled from one landfill to another as recycled or diverted. This subsidizes landfill owners because it camouflages from local voters the very high rate of landfilling. Other loop-holes ensure that every county meets the 25% waste reduction goal.
2. ThelandfillcompaniesandTDECviolateTCA68-211-803(a)which requires that the state protect citizens and the environment from solid waste facilities. The Middle Point hearing demonstrates that solid waste facilities pollute groundwater, hurt property values, and injure health with immunity. Polluting landfills [cash cows to some] include Dickson County Landfill, Coffee County Landfill, 70 unlined construction waste landfills accepting toxic chemicals, Anderson County Landfill, Benton County Ash Fill, Middle Point Landfill, Cedar Ridge Landfill, EWS Landfill in Camden, and the TVA coal ash disaster
3. Environmental injustice prevails. Landfills flow to the powerless—poor, rural, and minority. “There are no landfills in Belle Meade” is a long time BURNT saying.
4. The political and business elite allow solid waste to be used as cheap material to fill landfills even though impoverished Tennessee desperately needs jobs from recycling.
B. Solid Waste History in Tennessee
Solid waste in Tennessee was particularly influenced by two events:
1. The 1969 Solid Waste Act was the first solid waste act in Tennessee. The goal quickly became the consolidation of numerous, small, polluting landfills which served local governments and businesses. This Act and later Federal requirements created the firm picture that landfills were the central concern. TCA 68-211-803(a) requiring that citizens and the environment be protected from solid waste facilities was part of the 1969 Act.
2. The 1991 Solid Waste Act marked the ascendancy of the Office of General Counsel in policy making through
a. rampant loop-holes in TCA 68-211-861 including inflated “recycling”
b. Subsidizing multinational landfill companies through lax enforcement of original state and TCA 68-211-803(a)
c. the artificial and perhaps unconstitutional separation of regulation of solid waste from landfills which are fundamentally related.
C. “If you begin with the content of solid waste, solutions fall like rain from the sky”
Peter Anderson
Tennessee landfills 8 million tons of solid waste with no analysis of the 5 million tons which could be composted or the 3 million tons of paper. There are no discussions of how to intercept waste on the way to the landfill. There is no analysis of the materials in solid waste and how to divert them through composting and recycling . Very few local plans, or this State plan, are based on a waste stream analysis. There is virtually no source separation. Solid waste policy is based on the needs of the haulers, landfill owners, and financiers who fund the system. Tennessee begins with the assumption that all waste will be landfilled. Landfill owners, haulers, and financiers are the primary clients.

D. Likelihood of Solid Waste Reform

  1. Source Separation
    Solid waste reform—recycling and composting solid waste to create jobs and business— means source separation. If and only if construction waste and also food waste, yard waste, and un-recycled paper are source separated will jobs and business be created by the raw materials in solid waste. Solid waste reform means 5,800 jobs in impoverished Tennessee (link to ‘College of Charleston and US EPA’ study). Source separation allows for construction and financing of 8—12 large urban composting centers and many smaller composting centers to create high quality, marketable compost. Source separation of construction waste will create significant raw material to fuel recycling and re-manufacturing jobs. The multi-national landfill companies have the experience to manage large urban composting facilities. This would answer their concerns about losing market share in landfills if composting became policy.
  2. Solid Waste Reform Is a Top Down Process
    State and local elected officials, State Commissioners, the Governor, local and state business elite must decide if 5,800 jobs and cleaning up polluted landfills justify solid waste reform. Citizens are not the road blocks to solid waste reform. Source separation is a simple act once the proper protocols are created. Proven methods ensure recycling construction waste in rural and urban areas. Once the leaders decide we need jobs not landfills, the strength of the solid waste industry will evaporate. If the industry realizes there is more money in recycling and composting and if the State of Tennessee enforces regulations at the many polluting landfills, the multi-national landfills will support solid waste reform. This depends on state leadership from government and business.
    Logically, reform will begin with the large generators such as colleges and restaurants generating food waste.
  3. State Legislation
    In legislation this year, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1917 [2nd amendment] /HB 1988 that requires the State Solid Waste Plan “…identify incentives and systems…
    —“…to facilitate recycling and reuse of construction waste…”,
    —“…the use of composting to divert waste from landfills…[including]…large scale composting in major metropolitan areas…”
    — “…composting strategies…[for] higher education institutions, food service establishments, food retailers, and neighborhood groups”
    —“…the state plan shall include recommendations for a statewide system of collecting recyclable plastics that is based on regional collection centers.
    Examining TDEC performance and laws, the General Assembly has not been an effective source for good environmental policy.
  4. Landfill Companies
    The multinational landfill companies own assets in Tennessee which generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year for their corporations. This is a satisfactory business model for them. A permitted landfill is a license to print money. The “State Plan 2015-2025” should include numbers which demonstrate higher profit to the landfill companies for recycling and composting.
    E. The Unique Tennessee Law
  5. A Specific Numerical Example
    The loop-holes in TCA 68-211-861 include credit for landfilled construction waste to count as ‘diverted’ or recycled, three different ways to count local reports so that every county passes, multiple base years, and credit toward waste reduction for technology changes even without proof of efficacy. These loop-holes are simply astounding. People would go to prison for doing taxes this way. However, this achieves the goal of the Office of General Counsel to camoflauge the amount landfilled to local voters and allow a high rate of landfills
    In 2010, Columbia University and Bio-cycle Magazine conducted a survey of all states. Tennessee claimed almost 50% diversion that year yet Columbia University determined that Tennessee had a 4.64% recycling rate. This is an unbelievable gap for physical data.
  6. TDEC Staff A victim of the Law
    TDEC has capable staff whose work responsibility and professional development are hurt by Tennessee laws. The Planning Division has a group which carefully check and cross check the math on local reports to ensure compliance with the loop-holes of TCA 68- 211-861. If not for this busy work these workers could be in the field with local governments and business to help the growth of real composting and recycling. It does not appear as if State geologists are allowed to use their professional skills in evaluating landfills
    F. Past Reform Efforts 1. Task Force
    The ‘Solid Waste Task Force’ has been the most significant planning effort in
    TDEC to date. The Task Force (years 2007-2009) was a highly skilled group of public
    works executives and concerned citizens. The first day several showed up with books on “Zero Waste” which gradually disappeared as the process continued. The Task Force
    developed recommendations which attacked the landfill committed nature of Tennessee
    solid waste. (see Task Force Concepts, attached) However, the Task Force Findings not
    only disappeared but were completely misrepresented in “Summary of Comments” for
    Rule 0400-11-01-09. TDEC was fully complicit in the destruction of the Task Force
    Findings. We do not need a Comprehensive Integrated Solid Waste Plan—we need a
    plan which will defeat the extremely comfortable relationship between TDEC and multi-
    national solid waste companies.
  7. Expert Opinion by a Professional Geologist
    This opinion was written in July 2008 as part of the Public Chapter 0462 Rule
    —landfills routinely contaminate our groundwater (pg. 1)
    0400-11-01-09 process. Professional Geologist Mark Quarles testified to the Solid Waste
    Advisory Committee in addition to this written opinion. The Opinion is six years old. Some
    of the specific problems with placement of test wells may have been addressed. However,
    the litany of problems which are still in existence is clear
    —landfill permits are issued at sites that TDEC determined to be unsuitable for land
    disposal (pg. 1)
    —-according to a database provided by TDEC all types of landfills are leaking in all regions
    of Tennessee (pg. 1)
    —30% of active municipal solid waste landfills have groundwater contamination high
    enough to require corrective action according to TDEC but this corrective action rarely
    includes remediation of the groundwater—just restrictions on use and providing potable
    water to citizens (pg. 1-2, )
    —landfills are commonly located immediately adjacent to waterways—even some used for
    public drinking water (pg. 2)
    —public water testing is not reflective of risks form landfills (pg. 2)
    —landfills are sometimes unmonitored for contamination (pg. 3-4) —construction/demolition debris is not “inert” and presents significant hazards (pg. 3)
    —-Problem wastes require better design standards and disposal alternatives (pg. 4) —-Landfill gas migration requires more aggressive approach (pg. 5)
    —-Class III/IV Landfills are used to meet waste reduction goals (pg. 5)
    —-chief geologist for TDEC Division of Solid Waste Management found that karst
    conditions of Cedar Ridge preclude site from meeting basic site suitability and monitoring
    standards (pg. 4) [Cedar Ridge was later allowed a major expansion over a massive sink
    The Expert Opinion of Professional Geologist Mark Quarles appears to confirm an
    appearance of a highly politicized TDEC seeking every opportunity to landfill solid waste.
    From loop-holes in TCA 68-211-851, to flagrant violation of TCA 68-211-803 (a),(b), to the
    six year old problems in the Expert Opinion, TDEC appears to operate with a single goal—
    landfill, landfill, landfill. Ironically, TDEC personnel have imminent qualifications to provide
    expertise on how to compost and recycle and how to run landfills. Our challenge, and the
    challenge for Tennessee, is to change the politicized values from pro-landfills to pro-
    people, pro-laws, pro-jobs, and pro-environment. This may happen in part by convincing
    TDEC that they have done a poor job but the real power for this change is elite
    government and business leaders who recognize Tennessee is an impoverished,
    unhealthy state in desperate need of 5,800 jobs.

Bruce Wood President
cc BURNT Board
TDEC personnel
National, State, and Nashville NAACP
Office of the Comptroller
Consultant, “Solid Waste Plan 2015-2025”
General Assembly
Mark Quarles , P. G.
This letter
Concepts Solid Waste Task Force
Expert Opinion, Advisory Committee