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A last-minute end of the year deal to sell the closed NABORS Landfill in northern Baxter County may be close to closing.
The deal, which according to a source familiar with the matter, has been in the works since June between the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Board and an Illinois-based waste management company called LRS.
The deal, which could be worth millions of dollars, would see LRS assume liability over the landfill for 30 years, with the goal of ultimately re-opening it and adding it to their large resume of landfills.
LRS is the fifth largest private waste and recycling company in North America and operates in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In addition to its core business, the company also focuses on restroom rentals, street sweeping and other services.
LRS was formed in 2012 after a merger between two Chicago based companies, Recycling Systems and Lakeshore Waste Services. The company has since seen rapid expansion through 30 new acquisitions, including a substantial landfill in Illinois, the purchase of longtime family hauler Roy Strom and a massive residential recycling contract with Chicago.
Several major companies and asset firms are heavily invested in LRS, with Goldman Sachs having a 46% stake in the company in 2017. More recently, the Macquarie Asset Management Fund bought out several major investors, including Goldman Sachs, in 2021 during a major restructuring. Prior to its investment in LRS, Macquarie had investments in Waste Industries, WCA Waste and GFL Environmental.
Macquarie’s website states it “aspires to be a global leader in sustainable real asset management and is working to create climate-resilient infrastructure.”
The company is also pledged to achieving net zero emissions across its portfolio by 2040, a full 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement.
Now the fund, through its new investment in LRS, has turned its attention to one of Baxter county’s most controversial landfills, which was closed in 2012 following several state violations and mismanagement. The landfill is currently under the supervision of the state, which monitors and removes leachate, contaminated run off water. Any leachate collected by the state is sent to a facility in Missouri to be disposed of.
The deal is expected to be closed before Jan. 1. It should be noted that the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Board will begin seating its new members next year.
Outgoing Bull Shoals Mayor David Nixon, who is the current chair of the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Board did not respond to requests for comment at the time of writing.
The board is composed of county judges and mayors of Class I cities throughout Baxter, Boone, Marion, Newton and Search counties. Outgoing Baxter County Judge Pendergrass made public comments earlier this week to KTLO, stating that the deal could potentially provide new jobs to the area. He further stated that he expected public outcry over the deal.
A history of problems
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.
The Mountain Home Observer is currently in the process of reading and analyzing several key documents given to its journalists regarding this year’s inspection of NABORS landfill and the sale of the property.
Stories on those documents should be expected next week.