The Tucker County Landfill turned over managerial duties to the Solid Waste Management Board last fall, though new setbacks continue to surface in their attempt to restore the facility to optimum status.

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

            After the Tucker County Commission update by Mark Holstine, Executive Director of the Solid Waste Management Board, it became clear more issues have been uncovered within the Tucker County Landfill since their taking over management.

            “We just kind of discovered some expenditure that occurred out of an escrow account,” he began.  These funds were supposed to be secured unless usage was approved by the Public Service Commission.  Somehow, money was withdrawn from this account that was used towards payments not approved by the board.  Holstine explained there are two loans the landfill has, both of which are current on their payments, though no new funds can be secured to build a new cell that is necessary to keep the landfill in operation.  Currently, the owed debt is around $3,000,000 leading to the inability to request additional loans due to maxing out their limit.

            Holstine explained the new cell is detrimental to moving forward with business at the landfill.  Without the new cell, he projected a 12 to 18 month lifespan left for the facility.  When the landfill was first built, the Department of Environmental Protection placed an elevation cap on how high the waste could be piled.  This is the only landfill in the state of West Virginia who was held to these standards.  Upon investigation, when the Solid Waste Management Board assumed managerial duties of the facility, they discovered they were maxed out on airspace and could no longer accept trash with the elevation cap in place.  A request was quickly made to the DEP to remove this standard, which was granted in mid November.  This solves the elevation problem temporarily; however, a new cell must come quickly to carry on operations.

            The Solid Waste Management Board has submitted a request to access approximately $100,000 left in one of the two escrow accounts.  The necessary petition has been submitted to the PSC to utilize these funds for facility repairs.  “We’re staying fairly current on most obligations basically, though we’re living paycheck to paycheck,” Holstine confirmed.  Their intention is to pay down the debt, which is why the current request for a rate increase.  The current fee per ton is $47.50 with a request to raise the fee to $53.30.  This is a total of $5.80 per ton increase, which Holstine explained $3 will be applied to loan repayments and $2.80 to go towards daily operational costs.  “It will be months before that can go into effect,” he noted.

            The second escrow account the landfill has is called a Closer/Post Closure escrow account.  This account has been formulated to have funds when the life of the landfill has expired to complete necessary closing requirements and to maintain the closed facility.  The Management Board has requested early access to these funds to move forward on the cell construction to gain life to the facility.  If granted, the funds would be required to be paid back into the account over the course of 10 years, which the DEP and PSC would require the Management Board to remain in control of the facility during the loan repayment to ensure the loan validity.

            To explain further the costs associated with the landfill, Holstine sais the primary expense going out is the leachate transportation and treatment costs.  Liquid that is generated from the rain draining through the garbage is known as leach.  This fluid must be collected and treated.  Most landfills are tied into a sewage treatment facility which handles such needs.  The landfill used to be hauling to the Thomas treatment facility; however they are now being forced to haul to either Westernport, Md. or Moorefield, W.Va.  Each destination is nearly 50 miles one way, which adds to the costs quickly.  The landfill currently has two leachate ponds and one tank that has to be hauled out regularly.  “Were hauling six (loads) a day right now,” Holstine elaborated.  He stated that at the end of Fiscal Year 2018, the total cost of hauling out the leachate was $600,000.

            Three new members have recently joined the five member Solid Waste Authority committee, which meets for the first time of 2020 on January 21 at 3 p.m.  This meeting is open to the public and will take place at the landfill office near the scale house.  “I want to make sure everyone stays informed,” Holstine said.  “I don’t want to hide anything.”  The SWA meets monthly on the third Tuesday of each month for anyone wishing to attend.