The landfill in Perry County, Ala. that has been taking coal ash spilled from the failed waste pond at Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston plant has declared bankruptcy -- a move that leaves a planned lawsuit to halt the dumping up in the air.
Arrowhead Landfill owner Perry-Uniontown Ventures I LLC, also known as Perry County Associates, filed for bankruptcy last week in Mobile, Ala., the Selma Times-Journal reports:
In court documents filed with the bankruptcy petition, Perry-Uniontown Ventures I LLC claimed two other operations, Phillips & Jordan Inc. and Phill-Con Services have withheld money paid by the TVA for accepting coal ash at the landfill located near Uniontown.
The complaint also asked for an accounting, indicating PUV did not know where the money paid by TVA for the disposal went.
Perry-Uniontown Ventures I LLC claims its three largest creditors are P&J for $3.9 million, the Perry County Commission for $779,837 and the Alabama Department of Revenue for $11,000 in sales tax.
TVA and its disposal contractor say the bankruptcy filing won't stop ash shipments to the facility. However, the filing automatically brings a halt to a planned lawsuit aimed at stopping the dumping, since no new litigation can be brought against entities in bankruptcy proceedings.
The coal ash is currently being shipped by rail from the spill site in eastern Tennessee's Roane County, with more than 1 million tons received to date. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the disposal, expects 3 million of the 5 million cubic yards of ash spilled from the TVA plant to end up at the Perry County dump. The deal was among the reasons cited by environmental justice advocates calling for an investigation into the EPA's treatment of black communities in the South.
Some residents of Perry County -- a majority African-American Black Belt community where more than 30% of residents live below the poverty line -- were planning to file a federal lawsuit against the facility.
David A. Ludder, an environmental attorney in Florida who has been working with about 150 Perry County residents, submitted notices of intent to sue to the landfill's owners in December. The notices allege violations of the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act and the Clean Air Act, the Perry County Herald reports. Ludder said he's now examining their options.
Among those who have accused the landfill of not operating safely is Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen, who says he's discovered the operators dumping liquid waste into ditches along the road in front of people's homes, the Locust Fork News-Journal reports. Nearby residents -- some who live literally a stone's throw from the dump -- have also complained of foul odors.
Proponents of the dumping plan have argued that it would bring jobs to the area as well as a much-needed economic boost to the impoverished county's coffers. Under the dumping deal, Perry County is supposed to get $1.05 for each ton of ash delivered.
UPDATE 2/4/2010: In the latest news on the bankruptcy filing, the Tuscaloosa News reports that no money was in fact withheld from Perry County. Jeffery J. Hartley, the attorney who represents the companies that own the landfill and hold the permits, told the paper that the bankruptcy filings would be amended to reflect that.
(Photo of Arrowhead Landfill by John Wathen/SouthWings.)