Murfreesboro lawmaker questions landfill contracts

By: - March 7, 2022 6:00 am
A Nashville landfill, not operated by BFI. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A Nashville landfill, not operated by BFI. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Republican Rep. Bryan Terry has formally requested that the mayors of Rutherford County and the city of Murfreesboro investigate whether its contracts with Middle Point Landfill operators are potentially voided by state law limiting public service contracts to no more than 25 years.

Both Murfreesboro and Rutherford County entered into contracts with operators of the Middle Point Landfill in 1995. Should the state law apply to these contracts, they would have expired in 2020, Terry wrote in a letter to the mayors on Friday.

Terry, a physician who represents Rutherford County, has asked officials to “determine the legality of my findings. And, if valid, I would ask that you take appropriate action to bring Middle Point back to the negotiating table to halt the proposed expansion and place restrictions on the solid waste that is deposited in the landfill.”

 A raft of documents and affidavits submitted in the case called attention to high levels of aluminum industry waste that had been accepted at the landfill, a potential hazard that had caused toxic reactions at other landfills.

Terry’s request is the latest maneuver by public officials and community residents fighting a proposed expansion of the Murfreesboro landfill. Its owner, BFI Waste Systems of Tennessee — owned by the nation’s No. 2 landfill operator, Republic Services — is seeking to expand the site’s existing 207-acre footprint by about 100 more acres.  The landfill accepts household trash from 34 counties. Without an expansion, the landfill may reach capacity in just a few years, BFI officials have said.

The expansion plans were denied by the Central Solid Regional Waste Board in July. BFI filed suit against the board in August. Lawyers for the city of Murfreesboro intervened in the ongoing case in December, submitting more than 1,600 complaints from residents about odors — and a raft of documents and affidavits that called attention to high levels of aluminum industry waste that had been accepted at the landfill, a potential hazard that had caused toxic reactions at other landfills.

Chancery Court Judge Russell Perkins ordered the dispute be sent back to the Central Solid Waste Planning Board to consider odor complaints and evidence regarding aluminum waste. In February, the board voted once again to deny the expansion.

Terry cited a law signed by then Gov. Don Sundquist on May 24, 1995 that says the contracts with municipalities “may be entered into for a period of twenty-five years or less, but not longer.”

The city of Murfreesboro’s contract for Middle Point was signed a month after the law was signed. Rutherford County’s contract, however, was signed April 25, 1995 — a month before the bill became law. The county’s contract also says that landfill operators “will comply with all applicable, federal, state and local laws now in effect and hereinafter be adopted and become effective during the term of this agreement.”

 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.

MORE FROM AUTHOR