Landfill forum a raucous one

The proposed landfill would cover at least 92 acres, and possibly as much as 1,000.

Published May 8, 2007

DADE CITY - John Arnold, the project manager behind a controversial proposed landfill, opened his presentation Monday evening with a frank assessment:

"I think we have the most difficult job here tonight."

If applause at the informational forum is anything to go by, Arnold was right.

While polite clapping greeted Arnold and County Administrator John Gallagher, the crowd of about 500 reserved their whoops, cheers and a standing ovation for landfill opponent Carl Roth.

Pasco's waste incinerator in Shady Hills can't burn the county's trash fast enough. The issue has opened up the possibility of a privately run landfill outside Dade City, between Enterprise and Messick roads, which led to Monday's forum.

At Pasco Middle School, the three men laid out the different sides of an issue that has gripped east Pasco for months.

The first phase of the proposed landfill would cover 92 acres, but Angelo's Aggregate Materials has options to expand it to more than 1, 000 acres.

Arnold introduced new features of the proposed landfill never before mentioned by the company.

It would provide for a recycling facility. It would collect leachate to promote composting. It would convert gas emissions into green energy.

Carl Roth, speaking for the environmental group Defenders of Florida's Legacy, said Angelo's had not mentioned any of these features in its application to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

He warned that Angelo's has no experience operating a landfill like the one it's proposing, and painted a scenario of more than 200 trucks working at the site daily.

"If approved, it will be with us for the rest of our lifetimes, " Roth said.

Because the format of the forum prevented a cut-and-thrust debate, Arnold said he would "set the record straight" on Roth's claims in coming weeks.

To address concerns about landfill waste seeping into the water table, Arnold said the pit would be lined by a layer of clay 50 feet deep.

Angelo's would truck in a 5-foot layer, and "Mother Nature has provided another 45 feet of clay" at the site, Arnold said. The state requires only a 12-inch layer of clay, he noted.

He refuted some misconceptions: Angelo's would not accept hazardous waste. It would restrict acceptance of asbestos. It would surround its landfill with monitoring wells and provide for third-party inspections.

Arnold said it would not accept waste from outside Pasco, though county officials have warned that commitment may not remain in place if Angelo's sells the landfill.

Arnold set out what Angelo's hopes might be the winning card: a $27-a-ton charge at the gates, half the rate charged at the county's Shady Hills incinerator.

"It's a long-term solution, " Arnold said. "This will be here for 100 years."

Gallagher said the incinerator is running at capacity, and the county is mulling over plans to expand it. Roth said he also favored enlarging the incinerator.

"The air emissions all meet federal regulations, " Gallagher said. "So far, since 1991 when it began, the facility has never received any citations."

The incinerator also produces $15-million a year worth of electric power for the county, he said.

Gallagher said an expansion could handle the county's garbage for another 40 years.

As county officials work through that option, they are also exploring trucking excess waste to other counties and promoting recycling.

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.