A lawsuit by three residents against Waste Services of the Bluegrass over continued issues with the Central Kentucky Landfill will be heard by a different judge after a hearing Thursday morning in Scott County Circuit Court.

If it will be heard in Scott County at all.

Waste Services has filed a motion requesting a change of venue claiming it cannot get a fair and impartial trial in Scott County and want the case moved to Fayette County. William Cope, Linda Stacy and Mark Wallace have filed the lawsuit.

The hearing was in front of Judge Jeremy Mattox, but he told lawyers for both sides that he was reassigning it. The sides are due back in court on Sept. 5, at 1 p.m.

“You don’t want me hearing any cases involving the dump,” Mattox said. He later said in an email he lives in Mallard Point and a potential member of the class, which would be a direct conflict.

In an 80-page filing, Waste Services outlines why it believes the landfill cannot get a fair hearing in Scott County, including a Facebook group and unfair coverage by the media.

“There is no substantiation to their claims,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Don Todd. “They have to have hard evidence.”

Waste Services’ filing states an unknown number of Scott County residents would have undue influence over the court or jury. The specific nature of the case, the recent litigation involving the landfill, alleged odor and related issues has been subject to “very public criticism, negative news media and even organized community protests and complaint filing.”

Central Kentucky Landfill’s operators specifically reference a Facebook group page called “Scott County Neighbors for Safety and Health” consisting of 1,075 members. “Despite the unassuming name, the group appears to be focused exclusively on opposition to the subject landfill rather than Scott County health concerns, generally,” the filing states.

The filing then specifically references Facebook posters and their posts that say “need [to] clean house in Georgetown offices this coming election,” and other posts that claim there has been wrongdoing, “crooked” business dealings and violations of law. It also cites another user who shared video and images of the landfill doing “irreversible damage” to the environment.

Waste Services also references a website soliciting signatures on a petition against the landfill and negative media. It specifically mentions letters to the editor in the Georgetown News-Graphic and stories on recently passed legislation that requires the county to be notified of any violations at the landfill. Because of the negative coverage by local news media, including TV news in Lexington, Waste Services of the Bluegrass says it “is unlikely to be afforded an impartial jury in Scott County without regard to whether any potential jurors are card-carrying members of the group of community activists.” The company also wonders in the brief if protesters will picket outside the courthouse.

They state in their filing that Fayette County is the most convenient adjacent county and many of the witnesses and counsel can just as easily report to Lexington as Georgetown.

“The Fayette Circuit Court consists of multiple divisions and circuit judges who are likely to be better equipped to manage the burden of yet another case added to the docket,” the  filing states.

The suit claims WSB has caused a nuisance to surrounding residents and property owners because of the negligent operation and maintenance of CK Landfill, and continued to do so without adequate mitigation or repair. It also states the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection determined the odors and other chemicals invading plaintiffs property to be a nuisance and have issued “scores of Notices of Violations to WSB.”

Cope is a resident on Double Culvert Road, Sadieville; Stacy resides on Luke Road, Sadieville; and Wallace lives on Cincinnati Road, Sadieville. All three claim they have been unlawfully damaged by the “invasion of landfill gas and odors” into homes and property.

The lawsuit claims as facts, among other things, that a properly operated and managed landfill will collect, capture and destroy landfill gas in order to prevent it from escaping into the air, and that WSB has failed to adequately collect, capture and mitigate landfill gas to prevent fugitive emissions and prevent odors. The plaintiffs also claim WSB has intentionally and recklessly failed to properly contract, repair, maintain and operate its landfill.

The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial to find on their behalf a reasonable and just compensation for injuries to interests in real property and loss of use and enjoyment of property; all expenses and economic losses; punitive damages; attorney fees and requiring the defendant to cease the unlawful invasion of odors into properties and homes.

A civil suit only reflects the plaintiffs’ version of the complaint, and no court date has been set.

Last month, Central Kentucky Landfill received a notice of violation for not keeping the roadways clean and earthen material coming from trucks exiting the landfill and depositing it on the public roadway.

Steve McClain can be reached at smcclain@news-graphic.com.

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