The Look in Brief

Middle Point operators say city, county the source of toxins found at landfill, not them

By: - October 11, 2022 6:01 am
A Nashville landfill, not operated by BFI. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A landfill in Nashville (Photo: John Partipilo)

In their ongoing dispute with the city of Murfreesboro, operators of the Middle Point Landfill are now blaming toxic pollutants found in runoff from the landfill and in nearby waterways on a city-run wastewater treatment plant and a landfill operated by Rutherford County.

In August, the city of Murfreesboro filed suit against BFI Waste Systems and its parent company, Republic Services — the nation’s No. 2 trash disposal company. The lawsuit alleges the landfill is responsible for the presence of PFAs in nearby East Fork Stones River, which flows into Matthews Lake.

PFA’s are highly toxic chemicals linked to cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and other ailments.

Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland sits with his face in his hands at a contentious meeting to discuss the Middle Point landfill in Murfreesboro in May 2021. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland sits with his face in his hands at a meeting in May 2021 to discuss the Middle Point landfill in Murfreesboro. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Republic Services, in a response filed last week, counters that the city itself is a “significant source of any PFAs found in the Middle Point Landfill.” The response suggests that contaminated sludge from the Murfreesboro Wastewater Treatment Plant contains PFAs and that Rutherford County Landfill is the likeliest source of some contaminants. The county landfill uses the Middle Point Landfill to treat and discharge its wastewater.

The lawsuit is merely the latest battle between residents of Murfreesboro and the landfill. For years, residents complained about odors in their rapidly growing suburbs nearby. Last year, the complaints crystalized into organized opposition to plans that would expand the landfill’s 207-acre footprint by nearly 100 acres. The expansion would have prolonged an estimated 7 years of remaining life at the site by upwards of 25 more years.

The fate of the landfill, which is the main destination for household waste from one-third of all Tennessee counties, could have far reaching implications far beyond Murfreesboro residents since there are few known alternatives for the trash generated by more than a million Tennessee residents.

Middle Point’s operators are asking a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit entirely. Should the case continue, they have also asked that Rutherford County be named as a defendant as a result of its alleged contaminants — a result that could put the city in the uncomfortable position of suing the county.


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.