Presentation held focusing on proposed landfill expansion

Dr. Terry West discusses aquifers and glacier till during Tuesday’s presentation.

GREENSBURG — A public presentation focusing on the proposed Decatur Hills landfill expansion was held Tuesday night, highlighted by speakers from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Dr. Terry West from Purdue University.

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 only 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 and then as needed they would pull small sections out.

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.

Fixmer previously told the Daily News that “there’s a lot of misinformation out there” and they look forward to future APC meetings to clarify.

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.

During Tuesday’s presentation, IDEM Office of Land Quality Permits Branch Chief Rebecca Joniskan stepped to the podium to discuss solid waste landfills operation and regulation.

At Decatur Hills, monitoring consists of upgradient and downgradient wells. Samples are collected and analyzed twice per year for ground water quality parameters. The results are then sent to IDEM for review. The presentation said they are currently in detection monitoring.

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.

Dr. West, 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 it’s not a true water supply aquifer.

“That is what you have at the base of the landfill that I have been able to observe,” West said. “That aquifer ... should be called a unit, [that] would be a more proper term for it because when you hear the aquifer you think right away that is a water supply situation and therefore it has to be well-protected because it has such good water in it.”

West said glacial till is the ideal material to have to build a landfill.

“What we have here is very good geology, you’re within the glacier till material,” West said.

West continued by saying that is the best location for landfills in the state.

Additionally, several residents were in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting and expressed some of their concerns. Many focused on their belief that the landfill expansion could impact the health of those in the county.

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.

“I think there’s plenty of reason to be concerned about this thing expanding, especially to the amount they’re talking about,” Johannigman said.

Johannigman also said there were some answers to her questions she didn’t find satisfactory, specifically about the safety of drinking water.

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.

Joshua Heath can be contacted at 812-663-3111 ext. 217401 or at joshua.heath@greensburgdailynews.com

Recommended for you