By David Sumner
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The continuing 35-year saga of the proposed Mallard Lake Landfill defies common sense. When I try to explain to out-of-state friends why we have had to fight a proposed landfill for 35 years, they are mystified and puzzled. And the battle still isn’t over.
The death of its original developer, Ralph Reed, did not dampen the possibility of its construction. Out-of-state landfill operators have bankrolled Reed’s many court cases. While I can’t prove this, many local people hold those suspicions. Otherwise, how could a man who declared bankruptcy in 2004 with $7.4 million in debts have afforded two prestigious Indianapolis law firms to fight his legal battles?
So what are the facts and where are we now?
• JM Corporation has a valid permit to build the landfill and could legally begin its construction any time.
• Neither the City of Anderson nor Madison County officials have expressed any intention to use it for local waste. In fact, both the City and County councils have gone on record as opposing its construction.
• Knowledgeable people recognize this is not a "NIMBY" issue. If only residents in close proximity had been fighting the landfill, it would have been built 25-30 years ago.
• The proposed site on County Road 300 North violates FAA regulations because it is less than two miles from the airport. The FAA, however, is powerless to stop it. The FAA opposes landfills close to airports because of the threat of birdstrikes, such as the one that caused the emergency landing of USAirways Flight #1549 in the Hudson River in 2009.
• All required landfill liners eventually leak. Even the most sophisticated liners will break after years of pressure under hundreds of tons of compacted waste. The EPA published this statement in the Federal Register: "A liner is a barrier technology that prevents or greatly restricts migration of liquids into the ground. No liner, however, can keep all liquids out of the ground for all time. Eventually liners will degrade, tear, or crack and will allow liquids to migrate out of the unit."
How does this affect the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir? While I fully support building this reservoir, many express skepticism over its feasibility. As a conservative, I question whether federal funds should be used for local projects like this. However, it will attract new businesses, high-income residences, and improve economic development and tax revenue for the city. It will also help supply critical water needs for Indianapolis in the next 10 to 30 years. Projected revenue from water utility companies that supply Indianapolis can help in building of the reservoir and funding its ongoing maintenance.
Will the construction of the Mallard Lake Landfill affect the reservoir, too?
It could. This site sits atop a 13-mile wide aquifer, the largest water supply in the county. This aquifer feeds into nearby Killbuck Creek and the two wells that supply Anderson’s water system. Contaminated water running off the dump’s 40-foot peak or through the liner could empty into the city’s water system and the White River.
While this scenario seems like a hypothetical long-range possibility, so is the reservoir. If we’re going to discuss the possibility of a reservoir, let’s discuss the environmental risks. Phase II of the plan includes an environmental impact study. Killbuck Creek and White River meet at a junction west of the reservoir’s dam. Water sold to Indianapolis could come from either inside the reservoir or west of the dam, according to a conversation with Rob Sparks, executive director of the Corporation for Economic Development. Investment in the reservoir from private and governmental sources could suffer.
There is a solution. County commissioners could choose to enforce Madison County Zoning Ordinance 11.12, which specifies the conditions by which a special use allowance (local permit) must be reconsidered. Many believe that information presented by the developers in the original 1981 hearing contained alleged irregularities. If proven correct, these irregularities could result in the revocation of the local permit.
Please contact County Commissioners Steffanie Owens, John Richwine and Jeff Hardin (see Madisoncty.com) and ask them to enforce Zoning Ordinance 11.12. The county’s future, including the reservoir, depends on the quality of life that you create by helping to end this 35-year nightmare.