By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Leaching of water at an old landfill site in Trousdale County could require hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs.

The site, located near the end of Gammons Lane, closed as a landfill in the mid-1980s. In October 2017, an inspector from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation looking over the site discovered ponding of water in some locations and leaching of water downhill from the site.

Leaching occurs when water flowing through the ground picks up contaminants and carries them along, potentially contaminating groundwater.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Leaching of groundwater is affecting this creek near an old landfill off Gammons Lane.

The Vidette was allowed to visit the landfill site and observed spots where leaching has turned the water orange. There was no sign of garbage visible on the ground, however.

“The water is coming down on top of the cap, going down through the waste and coming out down the hill,” County Mayor Stephen Chambers said.

At the Gammons site, the creek flows into Goose Creek, which eventually flows into the Cumberland River – the source of most of the county’s drinking water. Water samples have been taken at the landfill site but not further downstream, and there is no indication that contaminants have reached the river.

TDEC originally gave the county a deadline of October 2018 to come up with a plan to fix the problem. Then-mayor Carroll Carman and county officials met with TDEC and received two extensions, but Chambers told The Vidette after having had his own discussions with TDEC, the state has said there will be no more extensions.

Part of the delay, according to Chambers, was that the property is not owned by the county. When the problem was discovered in 2017, the Carman administration began negotiating with the owners on an easement to access the site. No agreement was reached and Chambers has continued negotiations since taking office.

Courtesy of Trousdale County government
County Mayor Stephen Chambers provided this preliminary estimate of cleanup costs at the Gammons Lane landfill site.

TDEC recently issued warrants allowing the county access to the property for the purpose of cleaning up the landfill.

“The commissioner can authorize us to go out and do whatever work we need to. We have that authority from the state and that’s what we’re going to use,” Chambers said.

Chambers presented the Budget & Finance Committee last week with a preliminary estimate prepared by engineering firm Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon. That estimate came in just under $730,000 and includes clearing the property of trees and other growth, improving the access road, placement of topsoil and clay cover soil and more.

“The vast majority of the expenses are going to be hauling the soil to the site,” Chambers told commissioners. “It has to meet a compaction test and we have to determine where we can get the soil from and how far it will have to be trucked.”

Chambers said Trousdale County has applied for a grant from TDEC that could offset up to 50 percent of the cost. The county expects to hear in around a month whether it will receive the grant and if so, how much. The grant in question is reimbursable, meaning Trousdale County would have to fund the cleanup fully and then submit invoices to receive grant funds back.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Despite the leaching of groundwater, the landfill site itself appears to be in good condition as shown here.

“We submitted (the application) on January 14 and they said it’ll be about a month before we find out if we’re going to get it,” Chambers said.

Chambers told The Vidette a corrective plan has to be submitted by March 31 and that construction has to be completed by Oct. 31, per TDEC requirements.

“This was supposed to have been done last year. They’ve given the county two extensions and they’ve gotten to the point where they expect work to be done,” Chambers said.

The county will also have to maintain the site in the future, preventing trees from growing on site and taking regular water samples to ensure no further contamination.

The mayor added that he anticipated paying part of the cost from the county’s fund balance, estimated at $3.9 million as of January’s Budget & Finance Committee meeting, and taking on debt to fund the rest.

“Given the amount that we’re going to have to put in at the beginning, if we took it out of fund balance that’s going to leave us uncomfortably low going into next budget year,” the mayor said. “We’re still running the numbers to see what the best course of action is.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]