After recently learning the county did not meet a goal of 25 percent reduction in waste in 2011 as mandated by the state, Loudon County Commission on Tuesday quizzed Solid Waste Disposal Commission Chairman Steve Field on waste processing fees, the county's contract with Cleveland-based Santek Waste Services and recycling.
From January-August of this year, the county has received $308,355 in revenue from landfill fees and generated 197,849 tons of waste in Loudon County, which includes Tellico Village.
Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough asked Field if waste contributors received any discounts, to which Field answered that Santek charges consumers different rates based on waste volume and density.
Field said Loudon was atypical from most counties in that 70 percent of waste locally comes from industrial waste producers, while 30 percent is residential. The state average is 70 percent residential and 30 percent industrial. He said plants like Kimberly-Clark and Tate & Lyle receive waste production discounts based on usage.
Field said the waste commission plans to have a third party evaluate Santek's operations at Matlock Bend Landfill, the facility in Loudon, and look at the financial viability of the landfill and the current rate schedule. Waste generated in Tellico Village is disposed at Meadow Branch Landfill.
"The solid waste commission is not sitting idly by and doing nothing," Field said. "We're looking at trying to understand the situation and develop a plan with a path forward."
Commission Bob Franke asked if the commission could adjust the waste processing rates if the board saw fit.
"The short answer is no," Field said, noting that the rates were set by Santek, which is under an 20-year contract that began in October 2007.
"To be stuck with this one flat amount for 20 years seems kind of ridiculous," Franke said. "If I had it to do over again, I would probably do it very different, but we
have what we have," Field said. "We're working through it. We're trying to identify if we do indeed have a shortfall because one of the things that happens in a landfill is that when you put more garbage on top of the old garbage, the stuff down below gets compressed, so at some level, you don't necessarily grow landfill space; you cover landfill space as the landfill grows."
Responding to a question from Commission Don Miller, Field said later in the meeting that the landfill was consuming "air space" faster than anticipated.
According to a report from TDEC, Loudon was the only county out of the top 11 waste producers in the state to fail to meet its 25 percent reduction goal.
Yarbrough asked Field if the solid waste commission had contemplated offering fee abatements for companies that use more environmentally-friendly means of waste disposal.
"Has the commission thought of incentives as to where you are giving these discounts to, not basing it on volume and density, but basing it on healthy ways of the company taking care of their own waste?" Yarbrough asked.
Field said the waste commission plans to consult with professionals with the University of Tennessee to assist businesses in smarter ways to dispose of their waste. He also floated the idea of establishing a solid waste director to serve as a liaison between county commission and the solid waste committee.
"If we had a solid waste director, one of their duties could be to would work, in my mind, for you guys to coordinate the recycling," Field said. "But they could also be your eyes and ears, looking at how the solid waste commission is doing and being able to report back to you on a more frequent basis, but that they would be someone that's separate from the solid waste committee that could work more closely with you folks."
The Matlock Bend Landfill began operations under an intergovernmental agreement in 1983 between the county, Lenoir City and Loudon.
Mayor Estelle Herron recommended that the county and the two cities schedule a joint workshop to further discuss solid waste concerns in the county.