Photo by Lisa Bicknell
The Concerned Citizens of Estill County hosted another public forum for Estill Countians, this time to voice their opinions on the landfill’s proposed Corrective Action Plan. The majority of those who spoke up at the meeting last night said the illegal waste should be removed.
By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Dozens of people turned out on a snowy Monday evening to learn more about Advanced Disposal’s proposed Corrective Action Plan, to which the Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) has already given tentative approval, pending public comment.
And comment the public did. Several attendees of the meeting asked hard questions and expressed fears and misgivings about leaving the waste in place.
Tom Hart, chair of the Concerned Citizens of Estill County, began the meeting by providing background information about how the illegally dumped Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM) was first brought to the attention of state officials in early 2016. TENORM is drilling waste from oil and gas wells, and the material was generated in West Virginia.
Hart said that at least 92 loads of TENORM was brought in by Corey Hoskins and other trucking companies. Fairmont Brine was one of the largest violators, dumping 865.33 tons of the material.
Eventually, Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services sought $8,547,380 in civil penalties from the companies responsible for the dumping, but several of those companies declared bankruptcy, including Corey Hoskins.
Fairmont Brine has agreed to pay their penalty by making 30 monthly payments that are to be dispersed to the Estill County Health Department.
Hart provided details from a risk assessment which had determined the threat from the waste in the landfill to the public was minimal. Later in the meeting, someone asked who “they” are (that conducted the study). Hart said that it was a very reputable company and the study, which cost $300,000, was paid for by Advanced Disposal.
Following Hart’s presentation, Mary Cromer, attorney with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center representing CCEC, provided an overview of Advanced Disposal’s CAP.
She explained that the two alternatives spelled out in the Corrective Action Plan are essentially: 1) closure in place and monitoring, and 2) excavation and re-disposal of the waste.
Cromer said that the plan for leaving the material relies on operational requirements already in place and an interim cap over the waste. It also provides for a radionuclide sampling plan and moving methane collection wells.
The second alternative would require moving the waste to another landfill in Pennsylvania designed to handle such waste. The plan would require moving an estimated 45,575 cubic yards of waste 425 miles away. The landfill calculates that it would take 93 working days to move 1,823 loads of the material.
Risk factors the landfill considered when creating the CAP include the amount of direct exposure to the material, the impacts to the surface and groundwater, and exposure to radon “daughters” through inhalation as the material breaks down.
The landfill maintains that to remove the material could result in direct exposure to workers and the community. Other factors to consider in moving it are the stability of the material in the landfill, traffic concerns, and truck decontamination.
The CAP says it would cost $464,900 to leave the material in place and $6.2 million to remove it.
The landfill ultimately concluded that closure in place offers the highest degree of overall protectiveness, both short term and long term, according to the CAP.
The meeting was then opened to questions.
Nancy Farmer, one of the community host agreement committee members, asked if the material was removed, would it require the use of a special team. Cromer answered that the CHFS would have to decide that, but she surmised that the laborers would have to undergo special training at the very least.
Ronnie Harbison, of Red Lick, expressed concerns about the life of the liner, which is only designed to last for 30 years by some accounts.
Rhonda Childers wondered about moving the methane gas wells and if they are venting the radon into the atmosphere.
Harold Friend also expressed concerns about high rates of cancer in the county. His wife had breast cancer and received treatments in Richmond. At one time, he said, eight of the twelve undergoing treatments there were from Irvine, something he thinks is more than coincidence.
Pauline Cooper said the waste might be safe during our lifetime, but asked, “What about our children and our grandchildren?”
“If we don’t step up, nobody else is going to,” she said. “We have to take care of our county, because nobody else cares.”
She said the waste needs to go.
Victoria Stevens, with the Estill Action Group, asked if the landfill in Pennsylvania has three schools and a river near it. This question was in reference to the argument that moving the waste would move the risk elsewhere. She stated that “perception is reality,” and property values will be affected if the waste remains.
Childers also said that Advanced Disposal is one of the leading companies in the country disposing of frack waste, and they “are well-equipped to move this waste.”
David Alexander, from Red Lick, says he has worked in the county since he was 15 years old. His comment was that the landfill accepted the waste, even if they did not bring it in.
Alexander, the father of six children, said, “One of then is eat up with cancer.”
Craig Williams, program director with the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, wrapped up the comment section by emphasizing that the CAP was based on assumption because core samples were not taken.
He also read a statement by Bob Shaffer, former Estill Development Alliance director, who fought against NORM being brought into the landfill in the 1990s. Shaffer insists that the illegal waste should be removed on moral grounds.
Further actions being taken regarding the illegal dumping in the landfill include the Estill County Fiscal Court’s civil suit against the landfill. According to County Attorney Rodney Davis, the landfill does not acknowledge the presence of TENORM in the landfill and claims they are not bound by the terms of the county’s community host agreement.
Responding to a comment that the big companies and the state are picking on a small community, County Attorney Rodney Davis said that even though Estill County is a small community, “a lot of good lawyers” are working on the case. A team of lawyers from New Orleans specializing in landfills is assisting the county.
Davis said “boxes and boxes” of records have been gathered in the discovery phase of the county’s lawsuit, and he assured that a lot is going on behind the scenes, because “you don’t litigate in public.”
He also recommended that the public show up to court hearings regarding the fiscal court’s civil suit against the landfill. The date of the next hearing is not known at this time but will be announced later.
A committee is working on an updated community host agreement.
Hart said he has spoken with Commonwealth Attorney Heather Combs, who is considering criminal prosecution against Corey Hoskins.