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Residents question landfill’s new permit request

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
FERRIS — Skyline Landfill's application for a permit to receive Class 1 non-hazardous waste, or industrial waste, has some residents concerned.

'It wasn't mentioned that Class 1 includes airborne asbestos,' said Bill Malloy, an observer at a recent meeting of the Ferris City Council. 'Is that going to be healthful?'

But Don Fletcher, North Texas landfill district manager for Waste Management Corporation, told the Ellis County Press Skyline is currently permitted to receive asbestos as long is it is not a by-product of industry.

Fletcher was adamant on the subject of hazardous waste. 'We won't ever accept hazardous waste,' he said emphatically.

Ferris resident Monique Foster feels industrial waste represents a hazard to the community even if levels of certain elements are not high enough to classify it as hazardous.

'These are things that the average person does not come in contact with in their homes,' she said. 'Plus mixing different wastes together, what kinds of fumes might they make?'

Foster said she feels there is already a higher-than-average incidence of respiratory illness in the area.

But Waste Management is confident careful attention to regulatory compliance will continue to make Skyline Landfill a good neighbor.

'I live here,' says Tommy James, Skyline's district manager. 'I've lived here all my life. There's nothing to be scared of. If I were afraid of hurting anybody, I wouldn't be here.'

Foster said the landfill could settle the issue with her and other concerned area residents by simply putting their assurances in writing.

'If the landfill, TNRCC and City of Ferris can put it in writing that people won't be adversely affected by this material, then we can talk,' she said. 'If it's not that bad, the company should be able to do that.'

An article in the Sept. 4 edition of the Dallas Morning News reported Waste Management has fallen heir to about 4,000 tons of ash, the incinerated remains of a much-publicized shipload of Philadelphia garbage that has been shuffled around for 14 years. 'Trash behemoth Waste Management… intends to put the ash in one of its landfills in the south,' the article said. 'Georgia, Florida and Louisiana have all rejected the ash.'

Walter Hunt, divisional engineer for Waste Management, said he has no knowledge of the company's intentions with regard to the ash. 'It makes sense if they are bringing it in, to bring it in to Houston,' he said.

Foster also said she would like to see a promise in writing that the ash in question won't show up at the Ferris landfill.

Hunt stated the new permit would simply enable the landfill to broaden its customer base.

'You have some industries that generate two kinds of waste, and they don't want to use two separate disposal companies,' he says. 'This permit would allow us to serve those customers.' According to Hunt, the broader customer base would mean increased revenues and increased benefits to the City of Ferris.

If approved, the permit would allow the Landfill to prepare an eight-acre area to receive Class 1 industrial waste, a very small section when compared to the 304 acres that are 'fillable' and 667 acres owned by the company at this site. The cell prepared for Class 1 waste would require a three-foot clay liner, along with a plastic liner, compared to a two-foot clay requirement for the Class 2 and 3 solid waste currently accepted at the Landfill.

According to Burgess Stengle of TNRCC, 90 percent of Class 1 waste is designated such because of petroleum contamination. But Stengle also indicated it is early in the 12-month process to be talking about specific types of waste.

Stengle suggested concerned residents call the Office of Public Assistance at 1-800-687-4040. 'They can walk (the residents) through to see what they need to do,' he said. '(Residents) can request that their name be put on a mailing list, even if they are not adjacent landowners.'

Foster feels a public hearing is in order. 'Write that the citizens dare Waste Management to have a public hearing,' she said. 'When will they have a hearing? When will the City have a public hearing? These questions are asked by the citizens and answers are never given.'

In a paid advertisement printed in the Aug. 31 edition of the Ellis County Press, James writes, 'I wish to assure you that Waste Management is prepared to answer any questions regarding Skyline Landfill and this permit change. Please feel free to call me with any questions at 972-842-5710.'

'A phone call just won't work,' Foster replied. 'There needs to be a more formal process locally. I know they say they'll comply with regulations, but how come trash was blowing outside the landfill several times in 1999?' she asked.

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