Landfill landslide stirs up turmoil







Loudon residents dissatisfied with response to Nov. 2 incident

LOUDON - A landslide involving tens of thousands of cubic yards of waste at the Matlock Bend landfill in Loudon County is almost cleaned up, but local residents say they are still unhappy with the response.

According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, as much as 100,000 cubic yards of material slid down Nov. 2 into a part of the landfill that is not protected by an underlying barrier.

"Most of it stayed within the permitted footprint of the landfill, though some did leave the footprint," TDEC spokeswoman Tisha Calabrese-Benton said Wednesday.

Although the incident happened Nov. 2, local residents said they were given no warning or information about the spill until a Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission meeting was held the following week.

"We're sitting here on well water," said Matlock Bend resident Mary Longmire. "We should have been informed."

TDEC said there is no visible evidence the waste affected any nearby waters, but the department will require future water quality monitoring.

Representatives for Santek, the private contractor managing the facility for the county, said they immediately notified TDEC about the accident. TDEC also issued a notice of non-compliance.

"One of the slopes failed and slid into a berm," said Cheryl Dunson, vice president of marketing at Santek's headquarters in Cleveland, Tenn. "There were no injuries and no threat to the environment."

Santek brought in extra manpower and equipment, working round-the-clock, to move the fill back onto the part of the cell that is covered by a liner, she said. The liner is used to prevent contaminants from leeching through the soil beneath the landfill.

TDEC's Calabrese-Benton said TDEC and Santek authorities met Wednesday in Knoxville to discuss future actions. The waste stored in the landfill must be managed in a way so it remains stable, she said.

"A third party must conduct a root-cause analysis at the landfill's expense, which the department will use to determine what long-term remedies are required," she said.

Local residents such as Longmire are concerned that the spill was caused by the type of waste the landfill takes in. Sludge from local businesses including Tate & Lyle and Kimberly-Clark is brought to the landfill, she said.

"I think they should be looking at the waste stream," she said. "There may be too much water in the waste. That's why it's not stable."

Longmire said the landfill brings in waste from a radius of 150 miles. She said she and other local residents were promised when the landfill was built that it would only be used for in-county waste.

Hugh Willett is a freelance contributor to the News Sentinel.