A Nashville landfill, typical of Middle Tennessee landfills. (Photo: John Partipilo)
The fate of a controversial construction debris landfill located in the historically Black Bordeaux community of Nashville is now in the hands of a judge after a brief trial Tuesday in Davidson County Chancery Court.
In March, Nashville’s Solid Waste Regional Board rejected a proposal to expand the Southern Services landfill, a 77-acre site in Bordeaux that accepts more than 90 percent of all construction waste generated in the rapidly developing city — and one that has drawn complaints of noxious odors and criticisms over environmental racism.
The 11-member board found that plans to add 17 acres to the landfill were inconsistent with the city’s long term master plan to make Nashville a “zero-waste” city by 2050. The plan defines “zero waste” as a goal of diverting 90% of all waste generated in Nashville away from landfills through composting, recycling and other mitigation measures. The board’s rejection was also based on community concerns about odors, health impacts and home resale values.
Waste Management, the landfill’s owner, appealed the board’s decision in May in the case before Chancellor Anne Martin on Tuesday.
Attorney Bill Penny presented three main arguments in Waste Management’s request to either overturn the board’s decision or send it back for reconsideration.
Penny argued that Metro officials failed to consider their application to expand the landfill within a required 90-day timeframe, that Metro officials were relying on a master plan to make their decision before it had been formally adopted by Metro Council and that the board acted in arbitrary and capricious manner in rejecting the plan.
Cate Pham, an attorney representing the city, argued that while there were logistical problems involved in the filing of the applications — including an errant email to a spam inbox — the application submitted by Waste Management failed to include the proper signatures and wasn’t notarized.
Whether the master plan the board used to weigh Waste Management’s expansion request should have been approved by Metro Council before the board made its decision goes beyond the scope of the appeal process, Pham argued. She noted that Waste Management’s arguments before the board in support of their expansion relied on the same master plan.
Martin, the judge, gave no timeline for issuing a decision in the appeal, saying she would taking it “under advisement.”
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