Neighbors Concerned About Health No Matter When Jonesboro Landfill Closes

August 13, 2004 -- Posted at: 11:55pm CDT

JONESBORO, AR - Members of Jonesboro's Public Works Committee are proposing that Class 4 waste be taken to the Craighead County Landfill in addition to the Class 1 trash currently dumped there. Preliminary numbers show it would save the city millions of dollars, but even if that happens, residents say their trash troubles won't be over. Two groups who live or have property near the current Class 4 landfill were so frustrated with how it was being handled, they filed two separate lawsuits more than a year ago.

"We're still having a lot of problems with the leachate. We're still having a lot of problems with the odors, and this is a potential health hazard for us," explained Debbie Hazlewood, who lives near the landfill with her husband, John.

Her concerns aren't eased much when she thinks about the future, and the possibility of trucks not dumping in Jonesboro's landfill. The Hazlewoods know it could be more than a year before that could happen.

John Hazlewood said, "I don't see where they're gonna stack any more through 2005."

The latest inspection report dated July 29, 2004 states that not only is the landfill over permitted capacity, height and slope, waste is also being dumped off its footprint; in other words it's going where it doesn't belong. In fact, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality inspector George Turner wrote that it even extends beyond the boundary set by a closure plan that has yet to be approved. However, the engineer for the landfill, Shawki Al-Madhoun, had an explanation for the violations.

"We are running out of space, because we drew a line in the sand that we didn't want to be there more than two years. As far as violations, we are still in negotiations with ADEQ on getting final documents approved for plans for closure, and that is taking too long," said Al-Madhoun.

City officials and ADEQ are still hashing out plans and design for the closure of the landfill. Meanwhile, residents continue to be concerned about their health.

A couple of years ago a cancer cluster study was started on residents who live next to the landfill, but no results were ever tallied, but with two new cases of cancer reported in the last year or so, health officials are taking notice again. Debbie Hazlewood recently spoke with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Arkansas Department of Health. The Hazlewoods believe John and a neighbor now are cancer case numbers 28 and 29 in their neighborhood.

"You might not be able to call it the landfill causing the problem, but there's something causing that much cancer out here, and we'd like to know what it is," John Hazlewood said.

Even when the closure plans are approved, there's still work to be done. An 18 inch clay cap has to be constructed over the landfill. Then, the area will have to monitored for years.