Chairman of solid waste district resigns over landfill management

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

HARRISON -- The board of directors of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Solid Waste Management District elected to not renew its administration services with Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District, and instead will do the work in-house.

In what is described as a contentious meeting, Boone County Judge Mike Moore resigned as chairman of the district following the vote. The Northwest Arkansas Economic Development district is based in Harrison.

Moore's formal resignation is to be submitted at the next meeting. Meanwhile, Searcy County Judge Johnny Hinchey, vice chairman, will be in charge, Moore said.

The board voted to enter into negotiations with Santek, a national landfill management firm, to oversee the operations of the landfill, however, no one was appointed to begin the negotiations.

The board also voted to establish a committee of board members to oversee the landfill, but Moore made no appointments.

Moore stated he does not have the time to manage a landfill and expressed doubt that other county judges or mayors of first class cities did either.

Bill Lord, of the economic district, said he will concentrate on core services, such as illegal dump investigations, waste tile disposal and recycling education.

The board hired Heartland Environmental Services to develop a methane gas collection and utilization system during its meeting Friday. The system is estimated to cost $4 million.

The board has considered the idea for a long time, according to board member Phil Jackson, and in the last six to eight months more incentives have developed to reuse the spontaneously generated methane.

The system will reuse and capture gas that goes into a burnoff, which can then be sold to cities and elsewhere to generate power.

The system has been cost prohibitive in the past due to the size of the district's landfill. David Klein, of Santek, stated that the system produces enough methane to evaporate at least half of the leachate created when liquids seep through the landfill and is currently being hauled to Oklahoma for disposal.

Heartland has offices throughout the Midwest, including Springfield, Columbia, and Kansas City, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla.

There will be no cost initially to the district, with most of the cost being incurred in development and use of some carbon credits.

The project will run about 10 years, and initial work is expected to start within the next seven days.

Sludge is used to get the methane gas. Disposal of sludge last year cost the district about $300,000, but with the generation system the district expects to save about $200,000.

A secondary issue of concern, a recycling marketing report, was not addressed during the meeting, Jackson said.

The value of recycled materials has bottomed out, in large part due to the economic recession, to 75 to 80 percent of its previous value.

Jackson stated that the recyclable market appears to have bottomed out and is seeming to level out. "It will return, but not to previous levels of early to mid-2008," said Jackson, adding that the market is now more realistic.

Jackson said that CCSWA's operation is better than those in other areas and is a very efficient program, stockpiling materials to achieve cost effectiveness, and keeping more waste out of an expensive landfill.

Meanwhile, the state is wanting plans for rearranging 145,000 cubic yards of trash and reshaping the sides of the original landfill, which will require the district to find room for 45,000 cubic yards of old trash.

Consulting engineer Mark Witherspoon stated that it appears the state will allow the district to do blasting to give the landfill an extra 25-foot depth, with the possibility of blasting to 45 feet being allowed later.

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