The Letcher Country Fiscal Court is revisiting the possibility of “processing” the county’s garbage rather than hauling it away to a landfill.
The presentation by Waste Reduction Technologies (WRT) during a meeting of the fiscal court on Monday was the same one presented last August and made little impact on the Millstone residents who were again in attendance. Citizen responses ranged from “not in my backyard” to questioning why if the steam process isn’t being used all across the country if it is so good for Letcher County.
Judge/Executive Jim Ward told the court the meeting was strictly informational and that although discussion was welcome, no vote would be taken.
WRT representatives Charlie Grote and Scott Fleming did most of the talking during the presentation, which featured a video of a demonstration of what Grote called a proprietary autoclave system that uses high pressure steam to reduce household waste and cellulose waste to a bio-degradable mass that Grote said could be made into briquettes that can be burned along with coal to reduce emissions. Grote said WRT is willing to undertake the project at no cost to the county and added that the process will help the coal industry because federal laws mandate that a certain amount of bio mass has to be burned along with coal and the briquettes will fill that need.
A woman from Millstone asked if there are any municipalities where the process is currently in use and said if it is she would like to go there and talk to the neighbors. Grote admitted that the WRT process is not currently in use and said it is really a combination of several different technologies, to package the waste, process it, and compact the remain- ing waste that cannot be recycled or is not biodegradable. He said Letcher County is an ideal site for the initial project because, unlike many counties in Kentucky, it still handles its own sanitation rather than franchising it out to large waste management companies.
“If all this works like we know it will work, then we’re going to manufacture them for other cities,” said Grote.
Grote said the steam used in the process is contained in the autoclave and does not escape. He said it is more economical to keep it at operating temperature, but said that requires the process to run constantly. This prompted questions about how much garbage it would take to keep the cycle going continuously. Magistrate Wayne Fleming estimated that it would need about 200 tons of garbage a day. The county produces around 70 tons a day and several Millstone residents asked if this meant it would be necessary to “import” garbage from other counties, which led to several different statements about the unsuitability of Millstone Road for use by large trucks.
“If it has to be run constantly, it will require outside garbage,” said Doug Napier of Millstone.
Jerry Collins of Millstone told the court that while he supports efforts to create a sustainable environment, the Millstone Road is already dangerous enough with the county hauling garbage to the transfer station there where it is loaded onto trucks to be hauled to the landfill. Collins said he and other volunteers had built a bridge at Millstone with equipment borrowed from the old Beth-Elkhorn Coal Corp., and that the bridge will not handle large trucks. He said if the county continues to send trucks into Millstone that exceed the weight limit of the road, he will file a lawsuit to prevent it.
“We have to start recycling,” said Collins. “But (if the project is located there) you will have to haul more garbage to Millstone. It’s a 40,000 pound road.”
Collins told the court it needs to think about locating the WRT equipment at a more central location in the county if it chooses to pursue the technology. He said it should be easily accessible with roads that can handle the weight of the trucks and the increased traffic. He also said that hauling garbage to the transfer station creates a nasty environment in Millstone from spillage and leakage from the trucks and said that Millstone residents have already suffered enough from the transfer station and from the now closed county landfill being located there for many years.
“Give these guys a shot,” said Collins. “But not in Millstone. Overweight trucks are killing us. Get that thing out there where you can use it. My neighbors are tired of picking up garbage at Millstone. Let them try it, but don’t go into a long-term contract, and it cannot be in Millstone.”
Collins said he spends most of his time at other homes he owns in Charleston, S.C., and in Virginia and he is always shocked to see how much garbage still makes its way to the side of Letcher County Roads. He added that he understands that the county has to do something to reduce its costs and must increase efforts to clean up, and urged the magistrates to come to an agreement to locate the process in a more feasible location. He said the Millstone Road is constantly coated with slime that leaks from garbage trucks in addition to garbage that spills from them.
“We have to do something,” said Collins. “And it’s not to dump it over the hill. Let’s come to an agreement, see if you can negotiate it but don’t lock yourselves in.”
Collins suggested locating at the Gateway Industrial Park in Jenkins or at Isom where the county already owns an old South East Coal Company tipple site. “If you keep hauling illegally into Millstone, I’m going to bring a lawsuit.”
Judge Ward reminded the Millstone residents that the meeting was for informational purposes and said the court has bids out for traditional sanitation contractors and the WRT process is part of the overall consideration of what to do with the sanitation problem. He said that tipping fees alone, the cost of taking garbage to the landfill, cost the county about $48,000 a month, with the price of dumping trash at $41.40 a ton. Previous estimates have the Sanitation Department losing in excess of $100,000 a year. He added that one of the things that makes WRT attractive is it will keep the current sanitation staff working.
“We’re looking at options,” said Ward. “We have to do something different and we’re willing to look at things to help the environment. This could keep our people working and we don’t know where (cost-wise) the bids will come in.”
Ward said that the WRT process would have to pass inspections from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Kentucky Division of Water, and air quality inspectors if it is adopted, but emphasized that no decision would be made that evening. He said from the tone of the conversations, it looked to him like no one had changed their minds and suggested closing the meeting, but Grote asked if he could show another video about a trash compactor he markets.
Magistrate Terry Adams told the audience he is convinced the WRT process will help the county financially and in dealing with the garbage problem. He said the processor could also process wood chips and other waste wood products and said that could help to make up the necessary volume demands. Adams also agreed that all the garbage transported throughout the county already leaks out of the sanitation trucks and leaves slime on county roads.
“This system will work,” said Adams. “If it doesn’t work, the county is out nothing. But all we’re doing at this point is explaining the process.”
Magistrate Gibson said that whatever the outcome of the court’s deliberations, he would not vote to put the new system in Millstone. Magistrate Fleming asked if there is any area in Letcher County that meets the accessibility requirements and won’t affect anybody adversely. Judge Ward said the ideal location would be somewhere in the center of the county.
“Can we look for a place like that?” asked Fleming.
“I don’t think it will ever be at Millstone,” said Gibson.