Louisiana landfill company pushes back on Duck River protections
Trinity Business Group plans to develop a regional waste complex near Maury County’s Duck River
A locked gate keeps trespassers out of the former Monsanto plant property in Maury County, which Trinity Business Group proposes developing for a regional waste center. (Photo: John Partipilo)
The owner of a Louisiana company with plans to develop a controversial regional waste complex on 1,300 acres in Maury County pushed back Wednesday against a bill that would provide protections to a stretch of the Duck River, suggesting it was a thinly veiled effort to tank his business plans.
Trinity Business Group plans to build two landfills — one for household waste and one for construction debris, a tire shredding plant and other waste operations — on a federally designated Superfund site along the Duck River, the source of drinking water for communities throughout southern Middle Tennessee.
The proposal, which emerged last fall after a local resident spotted activity at the site, galvanized opposition in recent months from residents and elected officials, including members of the County Commission, local mayors and County Mayor Sheila Butt. Elected leaders have put up a fight, enacting new zoning rules, consulting with lawyers and expressing opposition to state environmental officials.
But Sid Brian, Trinity’s president, testified before lawmakers on the House Agricultural & Natural Resources Committee, that his company had communicated with one or more county elected officials prior to purchasing the land in January 2022. Those conversations, he said, were “receptive and confirmed the need and expressed interest, frankly.”
Brian did not name the local officials he spoke to. A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, mayor of Maury County between 2018 and 2022, did not respond to questions Wednesday about his communications as mayor with the company.
You describe water as warm and fuzzy and I was just struggling with that analysis of something that is just so basic for our survival. We have residents in Maury County who are concerned about polllution in their community, who live in that community, who have been there for generations who are coming to us . . .
– Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville
The bill, by Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Howenwald, would designate a portion of the Duck River a Class II scenic river, a move that would protect the river from industrial development — including landfills — for two miles on either side of it.
Brian, Trinity’s president, told lawmakers the bill “would absolutely kill the proposed use and probably totally condemn the site. It would in essence deem the property useless.”
“We get it,” Brian said. “Water and the Duck are without a doubt feel goods, warm and fuzzies. When the topic shifts a little bit to waste and waste handling, even recycling, recovery, processing and landfilling, the topic shifts from warm and fuzzy to, frankly, hot. It’s a hot topic.”
His comments drew pushback from Rep. Justin Jones, a Nashville Democrat.
“You describe water as warm and fuzzy and I was just struggling with that analysis of something that is just so basic for our survival,” he said. “We have residents in Maury County who are concerned about pollution in their community, who live in that community, who have been there for generations who are coming to us and I just believe that is who we should listen to, personally.”
Brian laid out the need for a massive landfill site that his company is proposing: the three remaining landfills taking in household waste from Middle Tennessee have a combined seven years of life left. Construction debris landfills in Middle Tennessee have less than two. There are no immediate alternatives.
“The situation that has evolved, is evolving is crisis state …so there’s no denying the need,” he said. “There’s a need, there always has been and frankly until they come up with some options that’s not available to us at this day in time there’s going to continue to be a need.”
Several lawmakers appeared sympathetic to Brian’s arguments.
“I’m all for conservation and protecting waterways and anything else, but to use that as a stipulation to impede economic industry that we need in the community, that we need locally…is an overreach in my opinion,” said Rep. Bryan Richey, R-Maryville.
Local residents, however, have raised alarms at the prospect of large-scale landfills on the Maury County Superfund property, which for decades served as the site of the Monsanto Chemical Company, which manufactured fertilizers and agents for chemical warfare. The site, now overgrown with kudzu and other vegetation, has unknown quantities of toxic material buried beneath the surface.
The legislative committee took no action on the bill, which is scheduled to be heard again next week.
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