Yokena remains united against landfill
Published 1:00 am Sunday, October 12, 2014
It’s an outdated idea, it’ll smell bad and the trucks will tear up scenic country roads.
That’s the message sent by about 30 residents of the Yokena community Thursday as state environmental regulators mull a request to renew a permit for a landfill off Jeff Davis Road.
“The only people who’ve ever wanted this is the owners,” Warren County Board of Supervisors president Bill Lauderdale said during the hour-long public hearing at Warren Central High School auditorium. Lauderdale read a resolution OK’d by the county board opposing the storied garbage disposal site.
Warren County Waste Disposal Inc., headed by Betty Ewell and Vicksburg attorney Paul Kelly Loyacono, seeks to have a municipal solid waste landfill permit renewed. It expired in 2013. Ewell’s late husband, W.T. Ewell, was an original partner who secured the first permit on the 10-acre site in 1986. If approved by DEQ, the site would be OK’d on paper to be outfitted for non-hazardous solid waste. However, it would face more regulatory hoops such as a permit to discharge storm water before becoming fully operational.
Nonetheless, a functioning landfill — the subject of three previous public hearings between 1996 and 2003 — “would devastate” the community of about 1,000 people in south Warren County, resident Jerry Hardy said, echoing others.
“With all the narrow roadways and all that, it’s just not designed to handle that kind of traffic,” said Robert Pell, chief of the LeTourneau Volunteer Fire Department, which serves the area.
Others, such as longtime resident and former tax collector Pat Simrall, questioned whether DEQ would take into account modern-day environmental regulations regarding leaks and soil testing. In 2005, the county board appealed to the courts the state’s decision to allow construction on the site. Holmes County Chancellor Janace Harvey Goree ruled in favor of landfill owners, saying the site was OK’d by the state before new regulatory statutes were passed and that new laws cannot be applied retroactively.
That won’t be the case, as DEQ generally applies modern-day regulations when it comes to permit renewal applications, said Charlie Bach, a permit project manager with the agency.
Residents pointed out the landfill’s proximity to their property compared to many full-scale landfills that operate farther from even the sparsest of population centers.
“We want to have peace and quiet,” said resident John Gullett. “That’s why we live out in the country.”
At one point, Simrall asked for a show of hands to see who favored the landfill. Nearly all hands went up against it.
“Mr. Loyacono, surely you can’t be against your own landfill,” Simrall said during a general comment period.
Loyacono, seated in a cluster of people closest to the back of the sparsely-filled auditorium, didn’t raise his hand and was among the first people to exit when the hearing adjourned, leaving the parking lot in a silver Mercedes.
Lauderdale and Sara Carlson Dionne, the area’s representative on the county election commission, questioned Bach and Harry Wilson, the agency’s chief of environmental permits, on whether soil testing would be applied as vigorously in the decision-making process, given the earlier court decision. Both men declined a firm answer, deferring to further research.
DEQ officials related no specific time frame for when the permit board would decide on the company’s request. To comments on the application contact Charity Rockingham of DEQ’s permits division chief for its mining and solid waste management branch at Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board, P.O. Box 2261, Jackson, MS, 39225. The phone number for any additional information is 601-961-5171. Copies of the proposed draft permit is available on DEQ’s website, at http://opc.deq.state.ms.us/publicnotice.aspx.