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Murfreesboro sues landfill operator over water toxicity, 2,000 odor complaints

Middle Point Landfill pic.JPG
Posted at 4:16 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 19:29:14-04

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Murfreesboro officials filed a federal suit against its landfill operators over concerns of water toxicity and mounting odor complaints from residents.

The 35-page complaint outlines the allegations against the owners of Middle Point Landfill in Rutherford County. Listed in the suit are BFI Waste Systems of Tennessee, Republic Services of Tennessee and Republic Services.

Prior to the lawsuit, an exclusive video obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates showed how gases escaped the Middle Point Landfill. Some said those gases were making the notorious odor that's plagued the landfill for years even worse. The footage shows the flare stacks meant to burn off this harmful gas that some said is hardly doing the job. There have now been more than 2,000 odor complaints filed to the city. The owners told residents it was the city's sewer system, rather than the landfill, according to the suit.

In total, the landfill expanded to 207 acres of fill space located inside a total 803-acre parcel with support facilities, according to the suit. Earlier in 2021, the expansion of the landfill was voted down after pushback from neighbors and city leaders. In 2022, Rutherford County officials proposed no longer accepting any kind of waste to the landfill.

"The city has steadily and actively engaged to protect its interests and the interests of the residents of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County," Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland said. "Months before the City obtained that footage, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found the same thing in August of 2021. In its report, the EPA noted that something may be wrong with the flare system because those conditions were not seen at other landfills. The plumes of gas revealed by infrared cameras do not magically disappear. Depending on wind direction and thermal layers, those gases travel and can make ground contact and infiltrate homes and businesses."

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges water runoff has placed toxic chemicals in the East Fork Stones River and the Walter Hill Recreation Area. For year, the landfill accepted all types of waste, ranging from industrial and paint sludges, soils with low radiation, metal shavings, asbestos and soils contaminated with petroleum and diesel waste.

"According to Republic, they are not polluting the river," McFarland said. "The evidence says otherwise. Pollutants at both discharge locations contain a chemical fingerprint that closely matches the leachate from Middle Point. In addition to all of that, there is yet another pollutant in both discharges that acts as a tracer connecting both discharges to Middle Point's landfill leachate."

Middle Point Landfill issued the following statement about the lawsuit:

"We are reviewing the complaint now. In the last 18 months, Middle Point has invested more than $6 million in landfill infrastructure enhancements, with additional investments planned or already underway. The community can be assured that Middle Point remains committed to being a safe and responsible landfill operator and good neighbor."

As a result of the lawsuit, the city wants the landfill to do water testing, ceases the discharge of toxic chemicals, stop being a public nuisance and eventually pay for compensatory damages.