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The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has finally responded to the Mountain Home Observer’s request for comment on the potential sale of the NABORS landfill to Illinois-based company, LRS.
In its response, the department states:
The Observer also received an email response from Travis Atwood, a geologist with ADEQ, who discussed testing at the landfill with SCS Engineers, the company who performed a survey of the landfill during the due diligence period of the proposed purchased of the NABORS landfill, in an email chain obtained by the Observer.
His response states:
The NABORS landfill got its start in 1979 after a group of local entrepreneurs obtained a permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to make a landfill on Rossi Road in Mountain Home. At the time the group was known as RLH or the North Arkansas Board of Regional Sanitation (NABORS).
There was public outcry to the move to create a new landfill, with citizens like Bob Cohee, a local relator in Baxter County, coming together to create a local organization called Citizens for Clean Water. The group began cataloging and monitoring landfills in the area and argued that the NABORS landfill was being developed on KARST topography, which features multiple underground caves and streams.
These underground caves and streams drove concerns that the landfill would contaminate ground water and the areas lakes with leachate. Leachate is any liquid that, in the course of passing through matter, extracts soluble or suspended solids, or any other component of the material through which it has passed.
Leachate is a widely used term in the environmental sciences where it has the specific meaning of a liquid that has dissolved or entrained environmentally harmful substances that may then enter the environment. It is most commonly used in the context of land-filling of putrescible or industrial waste.
The group failed to block the creation of the landfill.
In 2005, NABORS sold the landfill to the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District, which was then composed of seven counties including Carroll and Newton. Over time, the district began to struggle with the landfill, receiving multiple violations from the ADEQ.
The district also began to run into financial troubles and eventually defaulted in 2012. Following the default and the violations, the landfill was closed in the same year, with the district filing for bankruptcy two years later.
After the default, the district was sued by its debtors in court in an attempt to recoup their losses. That court cases, and its judgement, led to the creation of a controversial $18 waste service fee of property owners that many within the district pegged as an unconstitutional tax.
Following the creation of the fee, the district once again found itself involved in four separate lawsuits. These lawsuits eventually led to a partial refund of the fees to those citizens that were forced to pay them, but the refund was ultimately halted following a recent ruling in Pulaski County Court in mid-2022.
Following its closure in 2012, the state took over the process of cleaning up the landfill in 2018 to the tune of $13 million dollars. The state also picked up the tab for monitoring the site for potential problems and leachate runoff.
A court ordered sale of the property happened in 2020 but ultimately failed.
If the deal goes through, LRS will still have to convince ADEQ and the state to reopen the landfill for business.
This continues to be a developing story, more news to follow.