MONTICELLO — Liberty Landfill west of Buffalo on Indiana 16 will be expanding by about 18 acres.
The White County Commissioners approved Waste Management’s request for the expansion after several months of negotiations designed hold landfill officials’ feet to the fire in terms of keeping the area clean, assuage area residents’ concerns about their respective property values, traffic and ensure no toxins are seeping into groundwater systems.
In total, nine conditions were added to the amended host agreement. They include traffic control, tarp inspection, litter control, landfill road maintenance, property value guarantee, periodic testing of wells, support of environmental education programs, offering a space for a recycling trailer, and enforcement of the agreement.
Commission President John Heimlich said an agreement in principle was reached during early negotiations with landfill officials but required extra time to iron out other details. The overall deadline would have been the end of September.
“We feel we have reached an agreement on all of those issues,” he said. “Another important aspect of the agreement, to us, was enforcement. We have insisted that the language be a part of not only the amendment to the host agreement, which in effect is a contract enforceable in court, but also be part of written commitments for the rezoning request that would be enforceable by Area Plan.”
Waste Management first requested the expansion in early April, and it was met with some resistance from folks who live near Liberty Landfill. Officials said the expansion would extend the life of the landfill by about 18 years of usability after its current area is filled.
The last time waste management officials asked for a rezone and expansion, it successfully lobbied in late 2005 for a permanent closure of County Road 900 East. At that time, landfill officials said there was enough landfill space for eight to 11 years and, if approved, the landfill’s life would expand to about 2037.
Some of the issues brought forth during the April 1 hearing included trash blowing from the landfill and from trucks leaving the facility, as well as trash scattered along Carmichael Ditch that feeds into the Tippecanoe River.
Janet Stiglitz, who lives near the landfill, in May wrote a letter to the editor of the Herald Journal expressing her concern for residents’ quality of life.
“We are living near a very dangerous and hazardous business, which has an effect on our health, safety and the environment,” she wrote. “For this reason, we are asking our White County Commissioners to deny and delay any further expansion at the landfill until an Environmental Impact Study is done on the property surrounding the Landfill.”
Heimlich said commissioners “spent quite a bit of time” addressing all the issues that residents brought forth at the first hearing, adding that Liberty Landfill has agreed to pay for testing of wells in the immediate area of the facility, as well as continuance of testing its existing wells around the perimeter of the landfill.
There is also a “property value guarantee,” in which the landfill will reimburse eligible homeowners of residential properties near the landfill should those residents decide to sell their home within 10 years after signing and can’t find a buyer.
Commissioner David Diener said it will be up to eligible landowners and residents near the landfill to sign up for the well testing and property value guarantee. They will have 90 days to do so following the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s issuance of an operating permit.
“There is a responsibility on those people who live in the area, if you choose — it’s totally up to you — there are protections here for you,” he said.
Landfill officials have already started working on traffic control (speed bump installation, picking up errant trash and inspecting tarps on trailers leaving the facility), as well as ensuring trailers are empty so trash does not fly out after it leaves the property.
And as part of the Community Environmental Education Program, Waste Management agrees to donate up to $5,000 per year to White County schools or other non-profit in the county for natural resource or environmental science-related projects as such science fairs and Earth Day programs at middle and high schools. Organizations will be responsible for submitting written requests for donations via wm.com or the Liberty Landfill district manager.
The issue now will move to the Board of Zoning Appeals, where Waste Management will ask for a special exception. If accepted, it will then be left to IDEM to issue the final operating permit.
Complaints about the landfill will be handled by White County Area Plan, according to its executive director, Joe Rogers.