Landfill developer sues Marshall/Maury County over denial of project on Monsanto site
The legal maneuver by Trinity Business Group subsidiary, Remedial Holdings, is the latest move in conflict that has unfolded in local county, city, and state government
The site in Maury County at which Monsanto Chemicals formerly operated. The property is now home to four Superfund sites, a designation given by the federal government to property containing hazardous substances harmful to human health. (Photo: John Partipilo)
A months-long battle over plans to establish a regional trash disposal facility on a federal Superfund site in Maury County that sits alongside the Duck River has now landed in court.
Remedial Holdings filed suit Wednesday against the Marshall/Maury Municipal Solid Waste Planning Region Board, which in April rejected the company’s application to expand a landfill first created in 1986 by the Monsanto Chemical Company. The contamination from Monsanto’s operations — which included manufacturing chemical warfare agents — led to the property’s Superfund designation.
Remedial Holdings is claiming that the solid waste board failed to properly review its request to expand the landfill, instead devoting a meeting to hearing dozens of public comments against it, before moving quickly to reject the plan.
The company is asking a Davidson County Chancery Court judge to reverse the board’s decision. Daniel Murphy, who represents Maury County, said Thursday that he had reviewed the lawsuit but declined to comment.
The litigation follows months of community backlash over plans announced by Trinity Business Group — Remedial Holdings’ parent company — to build a large-scale trash, recycling and incineration facility on the old Monsanto property — conflict that has unfolded on social media, in local county and city government meetings, and at the state legislature.
Even if the decision of the Marshall-Maury Regional Solid Waste Board is reversed, the applicants will have to address the concerns of the communities of Maury County and the City of Columbia under the Jackson Law and the recent designation of the Duck River through Maury County as a Class II Scenic River.
– Scott Banbury, Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club
Gale Moore, a Maury County resident and organizer, said Thursday she is unsurprised the company has now turned to the courts, after failing to get approval from state environmental regulators, county boards and state lawmakers.
“They’ve got a lot of money invested in this property,” Moore said Thursday. “But we’re going to be relentless as well. It’s just too important.”
“It’s disappointing that Remedial Holdings and Trinity Business Group haven’t got the clear message that the people of Maury County don’t want them,” said Scott Banbury, Conservation Program Coordinator for the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Trinity Business Group’s original plans called for a large-scale waste complex that could accept the household trash and other waste from scores of Tennessee counties, addressing a looming trash crisis in the state as existing landfills near the end of their lifespan.
The company’s initial permit requests — for a tire shredding facility, construction and municipal waste processing plants and an incinerator that would burn non-recyclable materials to generate electricity — were put on hold by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which directed the company to seek approval first from Maury County and the city of Columbia.
The company has failed to get those approvals.
Thousands of Maury County residents, concerned about the impact of such operations along the Duck River — a key source of drinking water, agricultural water supplies and recreation — then successfully pressed state lawmakers to enact more protections. A new law now designates the portion of the Duck River that winds past the old Monsanto property as a state-recognized scenic waterway, which precludes industrial development along its banks.
Should the company win their case in court on grounds the solid waste planning board didn’t follow the law in reviewing the company’s proposal, the company will still face opposition, Banbury said.
“Even if the decision of the Marshall-Maury Regional Solid Waste Board is reversed, the applicants will have to address the concerns of the communities of Maury County and the City of Columbia under the Jackson Law and the recent designation of the Duck River through Maury County as a Class II Scenic River,” he said.
What remains unclear is if the company can ultimately make a case that the decades-old landfill already at the site can be grandfathered in to escape both the scenic river designation rules and the local approval requirements.
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