GREENSBURG – An expansion of Decatur Hills landfill is on the agenda for the next meeting of the Decatur County Area Plan Commission, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 4 in Room 106 of the Decatur County Courthouse.
The agenda states that Mark Fixmer with BEX Farms is petitioning to re-zone approximately 150.074 acres from an A-1 zoning classification to an I-2 zoning classification for future operational needs.
The meeting will occur just weeks after a public presentation was held in regards to the proposed expansion.
Public presentation recap
At that meeting, it was explained that the current permit from IDEM was issued to the landfill Sept. 18, 2017. It has to be renewed every five years, which means the current permit will expire in September 2022.
Additionally, there are ground water monitoring requirements performed in June and December each year.
Also, according to documents from IDEM, an inspection on Aug. 27, 2019 cited no violation. Inspections are performed quarterly. The most recent violation, according to IDEM, was from an inspection in March 2012 for erosion of soil cover vegetation on the south end of the cell.
The meeting also featured guest speakers from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and a professor from Purdue University.
IDEM Office of Land Quality Permits Branch Chief Rebecca Joniskan explained that landfill expansions, such as the one being considered for Decatur Hills, requires a major permit modification.
The modification application must include local zoning, demonstration of need, and technically and regulatory compliance. As for public involvement, the permittee hosts a public meeting in the community, the public may submit comments to IDEM, and IDEM will provide response to public comments when making a final decision.
The Daily News reported that Dr. Terry West from Purdue, a geologist and civil engineer who also specializes in the subject of landfills, said he learned after meeting with the APC that the primary concern from the public is that the area below the landfill is going to be subject to a leakage problem and that it will leak into the primary aquifer and pollute the groundwater supply.
West said the area below the county is actually a glacial till (hard clay material) and not a true water supply aquifer.
West said glacial till is the ideal material to have with respect to a landfill.
“What we have here is very good geology, you’re within the glacier till material,” West said during his presentation.
There were a few concerned residents in the crowd that evening. Some expressed concern the landfill expansion could adversely impact the health of Decatur County residents.
Local resident Jean Johannigman raised concerns about potential contaminants that could arise as a result of the landfill expansion, and said more research needs to be done.
Another local resident raised concerns about the difficulty of finding contaminants as a result of the glacial till, citing her own research on the matter.
Johannigman also raised concerns about the impact landfills might have on cancer rates in Decatur County, citing her own research.
As previously reported by the Daily News, the owners of the landfill located at S. U.S. Hwy. 421 at CR 280 E. are seeking to expand their operating land by 150 acres. They are currently at 138 acres.
Decatur Hills landfill is currently asking for 150 acres to be rezoned to industrial for landfill expansion. Per the landfill’s specialist and their information, they have said they need the land for the next 40-50 years if things stay on track or stay where they are.
According to an earlier presentation from the landfill pertaining to the proposed expansion, they will expand the landfill in small sections, three to five acres at a time, and only as needed. The presentation also said the land would stay in farmland production as long as possible.
According to Decatur County Area Plan Commission Director Krista Duvall, in order to get to that point, the landfill owners would have to come before the APC, they’d have to be approved by the APC, they would have to go to the Decatur County Commissioners and be approved, and then they’d have to go to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
On behalf of Decatur Hills, Best Way Disposal Manager Mark Fixmer said while they are looking to expand by 150 acres to as much as 288 acres, the entirety of the expansion will not consist of merely the landfill itself, but will include additional operating land such as parking lots.
It is expected the public will be able to offer their thoughts and concerns at future APC public meetings on this matter. There could be at least one or two special public meetings to address the landfill expansion proposition itself.
This is a developing story. The Daily News will provide more information as it becomes available.