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This is the second part of a series. You may read the first story here.
Outrage of the proposed deal between the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Board and Illinois-based waste company LRS to sell the NABORS landfill is continuing to build, as members of the community begin to speak out against re-opening the controversial landfill.
One of the biggest opponents of the deal is Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams, who has introduced a resolution against the deal to the Mountain Home City Council’s agenda for their upcoming council meeting.
Adams, who currently sits on the board of the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Board, told the Observer that he was not keen on Baxter County becoming a dumping ground for trash from locations like Harrison, West Memphis and the Midwest.
“We know we got a problem up there now with the landfill,” Adams said. “So, why open it back and let more trash go in there for as long as LRS wants to put trash in there? All we’re going to do is compound the potential problem that could impact our water source.”
Details of the proposed sale agreement
Over the course of the weekend the Observer obtained several key documents about the potential sale of the NABORS landfill including a copy of the sale agreement itself and a copy of an environmental survey of the landfill that was taken last year.
That agreement, if officially signed off on, would transfer ownership of the landfill to LRS for a mere $500,000, and would open up several opportunities for the company to begin applying for permits to open new cells within the landfill. The agreement would also allow the state, which is currently responsible for monitoring the site and what could be potentially leaking beneath it, off the hook if any harmful or damaging hazardous substance is discovered at the site.
Under the section titled “Purchaser’s Indemnity,” LRS would agree to “defend, protect, indemnify and hold Seller and every other Indemnified Party harmless from and against any and all Indemnified Losses incurred by Seller or such other Indemnified Party.”
That defense would cover hazardous substances “present or alleged” at the landfill and whether or not those substances were “produced, stored, used, or transported in compliance with applicable Environmental Laws.”
The deal would also see that the Seller and the Indemnified Parties shall “have no liability or responsibility for damage or injury to human health, the environment or natural resources caused by, for abatement and/or clean-up of, or otherwise with respect to, Hazardous Substances by virtue of the prior ownership and interest of the Seller.”
The Observer has sent emails requesting comments from both David Nixon, former chairman of the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Board and LRS for comment on the deal, but no email has been answered at the time of writing. An attempted phone call with Nixon was also made on Monday.
That phone call, which used the number Nixon listed as his number in the sale agreement itself, was answered by an unknown man who refused to identify himself or answer questions over the phone.
In regard to other unanswered emails and requests for comment, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) told the Observer that they would have an official statement on the sale of the landfill by Tuesday, but no comment was given by the end of the business day.
Unbeknownst to the public, the ADEQ has been involved in the sale agreement between LRS and the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste Board. Emails obtained by the Observer between members of ADEQ and SCS Engineers, the company who performed a survey of the landfill during the due diligence period of the proposed purchased of the NABORS landfill, detail the ADEQ giving advice to SCS on how to properly conduct tests at the site.
In an email from Travis Atwood, a geologist with ADEQ, and SCS Engineering, Atwood states that ADEQ “understands that the purpose of this investigation is to gather additional information concerning the groundwater at the landfill during the due diligence period between LRS and Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District.”
Atwood further states that, “DEQ also recognizes that this information could be utilized towards future hydraulic investigations for permitting processes and requirements.”
Atwood then states that the ADEQ is willing to approve boring at the landfill for the due diligence investigation.
October 2022 Groundwater Monitoring Event
While LRS may have been doing its own investigation into the landfill site, ADEQ was still conducting its own evaluations.
In October, Harbor Environmental and Safety provided ADEQ with the results of a monitoring event. The 595 page survey, which is provided below, shows that the NABORS landfill currently has 24 two-inch PVC monitoring wells, along with 13 documented springs and seeps.
During the course of that survey, which was not able to survey every site due to low water levels from dry conditions, it was revealed that the NABORS landfill is producing several carcinogens above approved levels by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
As detailed in the survey, all results were compared to the U.S. EPA National Primary Drinking Water Regulations – Maximum Containment Levels (MCLs) and the National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations secondary maximum containment levels (SMCLs).
MCLs are legally enforceable standards that were designed to protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water. SMCLs are non-enforceable contaminant levels that cover 15 contaminants. SMCLs were established to give guidelines over aesthetic considerations, such as taste and color, of public drinking water.
A third standard, called Regional Screening Levels (RSLs), are also used in the survey. RSLs were created by the EPA to use in lieu or in addition to of MCLs. They are used for comparison purposes for regional tap water.
The October report states that Sulfate was detected at a concentration of 274 mg/L, which is above the 250 mg/L level for SMCL.
TDS levels, or total dissolved solids, also clocked in above recommended SMCL levels in several testing locations.
Arsenic, which can cause cancer with repeated exposure, was detected in every monitoring well and spring samples at concentrations that exceeded regional standards. Arsenic levels in samples from CAO-1, MW-1, MW-1R, NAB-2, and Spring SP-7 all exceeded the legally enforceable MCL level for arsenic.
Cadmium, another carcinogenic, was found to have exceeded the recommended MCL at MW-509D. Vinyl Chloride also exceeded MCL levels at sites MW-1 and MW-1R.
Arsenic, Cadmium, Colbalt, Iron, Manganese, Thallium, Benzene, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, 1,1 dichloroethane, methyl-tert-butyl, and trichloroethene all exceeded RSL levels in certain testing sites.
According to velocity rates for groundwater carrying contaminants like those listed above, groundwater was averaging 1.57 feet of travel per day at Area 1-2 and 2.11 feet per day at Area 1-3.
This continues to be a developing story. No official sale paperwork has been filed in Baxter County at time of writing.