Baldwin County's Union Hill Church Road municipal solid waste landfill will enter closure phase by March 2016.
County commissioners approved a consent order handed down by the Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Tuesday.
“This has been coming for some time. We have no choice but to do it,” County Manager Ralph McMullen said. “I think this consent order gives us 24 months to actually get the closure done. The reason we asked for this additional time was so that the (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds could come up giving us adequate funds to do this without borrowing monies.”
County Attorney David McRee said EPD “kind of rocked along” with the county for several years on the closure project.
“Over the course of 2013, (EPD) began to ratchet (the heat) up a little bit,” McRee said. “We began to receive letters wanting to know where we were in this process. There were some things they weren't happy about.”
EPD regulators found “conditions at the facility that placed it out of compliance with acceptable operating standards” three times since 2007. The latest violation letter came Sept. 4, 2013.
The consent order guarantees that all sides know the terms for action.
“It was important for us to get a time schedule to comply with,” the county attorney said Tuesday.
Baldwin County has owned and operated three contiguous landfills on Union Hill Church Road since the 1980s. EPD originally permitted the final Phase 3 in 1994. Twenty-one acres of the 75-acre permitted footprint includes a bottom liner system.
Dumped tonnage averaged 100 per day through 2002, falling to 73 tons per day by 2005. In 2007, the county decided to cease operations at the landfill, accepting no more public trash.
Since the closure, the county continued dumping limited self-generated waste at Phase 3 to maintain permits.
The county has been unable to close the landfill due to budget limitations.
Attempts to sell the facility for a revenue bump failed as well.
Old closure estimations hovered around $2.5 million. McMullen said back in February 2013 that five more years are needed to generate that figure through SPLOST collection.
So far the county estimates collecting $616,142 allocated SPLOST landfill closure monies since April 2012.
McMullen said the capping process and initial post-closure care now approaches $3 million.
Based on the average SPLOST collection rate, the county would fall short of that figure.
Finance Director Dawn Hudson said by 2016 the county would have some flexibility to finish without borrowing.