By Hugh G. Willett
Monday, September 5, 2011
Experts say the problem is based on the unique characteristics of a type of industrial waste produced by the Tate & Lyle Co. in Loudon.
Officials at Santek, the company operating the landfill, said earlier this year that they were working around the clock to stabilize the landfill. An Aug. 16 review of the site by TDEC determined that further study of the situation was needed before the order could be lifted.
"We do not know yet whether the order will be lifted. We asked for more time to review the site and more data. The outcome will be dependent on those results," said Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for TDEC.
Santek, based in Cleveland, Tenn., responded to questions in a letter from David Hollinshead that stated, "TDEC agreed that significant progress is being made but monitoring still needs to occur for another four to six weeks.
"A plan also needs to be developed as to re-entering the event area once the order is lifted."
The order, issued by TDEC in January 2011, followed a landslide in November 2010 when 100,000 cubic yards of waste slipped off the containment area. The slide created other hazards, including exposed garbage and drainage problems.
"It's a fairly rare event to have slope failure this size," said Steve Field, chairman of the Loudon County Solid Waste Commission.
Part of the challenge, Field said, is the stabilization of large amounts of industrial waste that must be mixed with garbage to create the correct density and moisture level that will allow the material to be moved into large piles.
About 60 percent of the waste taken in at the landfill is "special waste" from commercial customers and about 40 percent is ordinary garbage, Field said.
TDEC confirmed that one of the problems with stabilizing the landfill is the unique type of waste — referred to as "sludge."
Santek and TDEC have been analyzing the sludge to figure out better ways of dealing with it, Field said.
It is not clear what the sludge is. Tate & Lyle spokesman Chris Olsen would confirm only that the company does send permitted waste to the landfill.
"I don't know what's in it exactly," Field said, though he said it is not a hazardous material.
Santek has hired a consultant to help study the problem and an upcoming report should be helpful in understanding the problem, Field said.
The consultant, Robert Bachus, a geologist working with environmental engineering firm Geosyntec, called the waste material "unique" and has the "consistency of yogurt."
Field said — and TDEC confirmed — the landfill has met all of the quarterly requirements and deadlines stipulated in the TDEC order.