A resolution opposing Scott County’s lawsuit against Central Kentucky Landfill and amending its Solid Waste Management Plan to provide any solid waste disposal may be introduced at tonight’s, May 25, Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government meeting.

A courtesy call from Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton to Scott County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington warned that members of Lexington’s Urban Council were discussing a resolution to oppose Scott County’s efforts to close Central Kentucky Landfill. The council members are concerned if the landfill closes, Fayette County’s rates to dispose of its trash will increase.

Sources say Gorton is opposed to getting Lexington involved.

“Scott County and Georgetown, while it’s hard to say benefit from our garbage, they do benefit from central Kentucky’s garbage,” Council member Preston Worley told WTVQ-TV, a Lexington station. “It partially powers their largest employer, the region’s largest employer that pays occupational license fees and net-profit taxes to that community.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. We will certainly be damaged if our servicer cannot service our garbage for the price quoted, it may put them out of business or may cost our garbage prices to grow exponentially.”

Central Kentucky Landfill sells methane, a byproduct of decomposing organic material, to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky. TMMK uses that methane to generate about 2 percent of the plant’s energy use, according to a 2015 News-Graphic report. That’s enough energy to produce about 10,000 vehicles annually, according to a TMMK spokesman at the time.

Apparently, the topic of the landfill arose during last week’s meeting of the Urban Council’s Environmental Quality and Public Works Committee, and drew immediate reaction from some council members, which surprised Covington.

“This has been covered extensively in the media, and it has been going on for years,” he said. “I’ve had multiple conversations with Mayor Gorton on the topic keeping her informed, so I’m not sure where this is coming from.”

Covington reached out to the council members and learned that most, if not all, had recently toured the landfill located in northern Scott County and had been told there was room for expansion, which would allow Fayette County to continue to use the landfill for its trash disposal. Other counties have sent resolutions to the state opposing the closure of the landfill, according to WTVQ, although no specific counties were named.

“I provided a letter to the council members documenting just some of the violations against the landfill,” Covington said. “And I’m going to draft a response explaining why we amended our Solid Waste Management Plan.”

In the letter, Covington states that it would be “highly inappropriate” for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government to adopt a resolution. 

“Lexington has had every opportunity to intervene in the pending case to assert any legal interest it might have in the case and did not do so,” he wrote in the letter. “The City of Lexington has been, or should have been, aware before renewing the contract in 2020 with Waste Services of the Bluegrass that the future expansion onto a 500-acre tract by the Central Kentucky Landfill was not assured even before the Scott County Fiscal Court acted on the solid waste plan amendment, and for reasons wholly unrelated to the solid waste plan amendment.”

With his letter, Covington attached a copy of a previously unpublished opinion of the Kentucky Court of Appeals on the case.

“Among the findings of the Scott County Circuit Court affirmed by the Court of Appeals decision was that as early as 2015 Waste Services of the Bluegrass ‘counsel for the McBrayer law firm requested a zoning letter for both the 500-acre tract and the landfill tract as part of WSB’s mortgaging process’ and was informed by the planning director that ‘expansion onto the 500-acre parcel could not occur without rezoning or a conditional use permit because it was zoned Agricultural (A-1).’”

Covington goes on to state that Waste Service’s attempt to rezone the tract was rejected by the Scott County Planning Commission by a 9-0 vote and the Scott County Fiscal Court by a 5-0 vote. A request for a draft permit back in 2016 was also denied. 

“As to the current status of the landfill, WSB has stipulated in a pending case in the Franklin Circuit Court that the landfill had exhausted permitted landfill capacity in 2020,” Covington wrote. “It has continued to accept waste after that time, triggering a Notice of Violation by the Cabinet on Jan. 22, 2021 claiming that by doing so after exhausting permitted capacity, it was operating ‘without a permit.’ 

“According to the Cabinet, Waste Services does not currently have a permit to operate CKL but has been allowed to continue to accept waste without a permit until Oct. 31, 2021. Lexington was notified at or around the time of issuance of the NOV that it would need to make plans for the time after closure of the landfill.” 

The letter then states that a representative of Waste Services told the committee a resolution may “persuade” the Cabinet Secretary to issue Waste Services an expansion, which Covington wrote was troubling.

“We are troubled that Lexington would contemplate attempting by resolution to influence the judicial and quasi-judicial decisions of the Cabinet Secretary and permitting decisions of the Energy and Environment Cabinet with respect to Waste Services’ landfill expansion,” he wrote. “The determination of whether a solid waste plan amendment or an expansion permit should be approved is a matter of compliance with the laws and regulations of Kentucky. 

“The cost to the City of Lexington of disposal of its waste is not a factor that is relevant to the permitting and solid waste planning decisions of the agency, and the implication that Scott County and the citizens residing near the current landfill should be obligated to continue, against their will, to host a landfill in order to accommodate Lexington’s garbage, is offensive.”

The judge-executive has also requested to speak before the council, if necessary

“We need to back our contractor here,” said Lexington council member Josh McCurn during the meeting as reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader. “I was rather impressed (with the tour of the landfill). There was no odor.”

Council member Fred Burns told the Herald-Leader that Gordon was against ending a letter to he Energy and Environmental Cabinet or wading into the dispute between Scott County and Central Kentucky Landfill.

The dispute between the Scott County Fiscal Court and Waste Services of the Bluegrass, owner and operator of Central Kentucky Landfill, goes back almost a decade. The landfill’s efforts to expand has been denied in multiple state and court rulings. Scott County officials have said the landfill ran out of capacity last year, but a court ruling gave the landfill an extension to Oct. 31, 2021, to enable counties relying on the landfill to find alternatives.

The Scott County Fiscal Court is appealing that court ruling. Last year, the fiscal court also amended its Solid Waste Management Plan prohibiting any solid waste dumping in the county, which would essentially close the landfill. The amended Solid Waste Management Plan was approved by the state.

In 2015 Lexington contracted with Waste Services to dispose of its trash, and renewed that contract through 2025. The city’s contract requires Waste Services to find another landfill if Central Kentucky Landfill reaches capacity, according to Waste Today, a magazine that focuses on solid waste management. The contract prevents the landfill from raising its rates if it is forced to take the trash elsewhere, the magazine states.

Lexington spends about $3.5 million annually for trash removal or $17.75 per ton. A previous contract with Republic Services charged $24.45 per ton, according to the Herald-Leader.

Some reports estimate as much as 86 percent of the trash now being hauled to Central Kentucky Landfill is from Lexington or other communities outside Scott County.

Central Kentucky Landfill officials have said an expansion is necessary. The landfill was purchased from the City of Georgetown in 1999, and landfill officials insist both city and county officials were aware of plans to expand when it was purchased.

 

Mike Scogin can be reached at mscogin@news-graphic.com. 

 

Kyle Woosley can be reached at kwoosley@news-graphic.com.

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