Public Discussion Held on Possible Landfill in Butler County
A special meeting was held on Tuesday, June 4 at the Butler County Extension Office to discuss the possibility of a residual landfill opening in Butler County.
The meeting was open to the public with a turnout of nearly 100 people. The meeting addressed questions and concerns about the matter.
Owl’s Head Alloys, a secondary Aluminum recycling facility in Bowling Green, Ky purchased a 70.206-acre lot of land off Ky. 70 in Morgantown however, a permit has not yet been submitted. According to the deed between the City of Bowling Green and Owl's Head Alloys, Inc., Owl’s Head purchased the land for $ 175,514.50 on Feb. 22, 2019. According to a 2013 municipal order, Owl's Head had the intentions to turn it into a landfill to house aluminum and other waste.
To seek guidance, the Butler County Fiscal Court researched the necessary steps to hold a public planning meeting.
“We as your elected officials don’t want this landfill to come into our county any more than you all do,” said Butler County Judge-Executive Tim Flener.
On May 28, fiscal court also met with the Planning and Assistance Section of the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (DEP) to receive guidance on the planning and permitting process for the landfill. An outline of the main items discussed were provided to all in attendance and served as the main discussion points of the public meeting.
The first of these points was to be clear that a permit must first be submitted. As Judge Flener stated that the DEP has not yet received a permit application, he reminded residents that no questions could therefore be answered on a non-existent permit or facility.
Representatives from the state Department for Environmental Protection were originally scheduled to be present at the meeting to answer questions, however the department decided against it due to the facility not yet existing.
As this is a matter of the state and must be held on a state level, Judge Flener also felt necessary to state that the Fiscal Court and other local governments have no authority on the decisions made.
“We as your local government do not have any jurisdiction or authority over this type of landfill that has got the potential to come into our county,” Judge Flener said.
A large portion of the meeting provided a discussion on the process involved in obtaining a permit. According to Flener, this was a complex process involving three phases. Each phase will have a certain number of days for citizens to send in their letters. The first phase is a notice of intent with a 30-day period; the second being the administrative phase with 60 days; and the third being the technical phase with 30 days.
“In each one of these permit stages, there are options. There is time there for you as a county to write letters, to voice your opinion during this process,” Flener said.
Flener encouraged all those in attendance and citizens of Butler County to do their part if and when a permit is filed by writing letters to the state during the public comment period allowed during each phase. He also stressed the importance of getting the communities voices heard in order to receive a public hearing that would further push for action.
“The more people that we get on board and the more letters we get there, the more we’re going to be heard and the better opportunity we get to have a public hearing,” Flener said. “I know we can write all the letters we want to, but personally I feel until we get a public hearing here, then our voice is not going to be totally heard and it’s going to take those letters at the beginning to be able to get that public hearing.”
Woodbury City Council member Frank House praised the Fiscal Court for their efforts and suggested that the community come together and stand behind the county in attempt to stop this issue from going further.
“What I would like to suggest to everybody is we get behind these guys because these are solid guys here and they’re trying to do the right thing and we get behind these folks right here and we help ’em and we push ’em and we prod ’em and let them know what we want,” House said.
House also stated that this is a result of the lack of zoning laws in Butler County. As Butler County is the only one of two counties in the state of Kentucky that does not have industrial or commercial zoning laws, House believes that this is only going to bring along more issues in the future.
Zoning was among one of the biggest concerns of the public. Many residents asked questions concerning the lack of zoning in the county and if any laws could be put into place as a defense against the landfill.
Flener responded by informing them that while a zoning law could be put into place, it would only be beneficial in keeping the landfill confined to one area, however it would not keep them from coming here.
“If we had planned any zoning in our county, that would be our only option – we couldn’t keep them from coming here, but we could restrict where they put the landfill,” he said.
Flener said this is an option that they are looking at.
Butler County Magistrate Kevin Phelps also added to the conversation, stating that because Owl’s Head had already bought the property with the intent to use it for a landfill, that it was “grandfathered in” and would not stop their plans for the current location. This would only aid in allowing them to prevent future instances such as this one.
Morgantown resident Ross McFadyen asked, “Is there any time government regulations increased freedoms and liberties for just everyday citizens?”
He described that the point he was making is that zoning may lead to people’s freedoms being taken away. He also posed a question asking those in attendance if they take part in the use of aluminum items.
“I’m not a proponent of it, I’m just saying there is that, so it’s a little hypocritical to say, ‘I don’t want it in my backyard,’ and then use cans, foil and all this other stuff. I’m for the constitution and freedom and I’m looking at it from that view.”
Another concern was public safety and health issues that may come with a property such as this. Many residents raised their concerns for the possibility of toxins and waste getting into the water.
Resident Steve Fuller expressed his hopes that the fiscal court would do everything in their power to keep our water from becoming dangerous and to keep out pollution and environmental harm from doing more damage. Fuller stated that he was skeptical that the county would receive any help if anything were to occur.
“I have no confidence that the Environmental Protection Agency would do anything right now to protect our water here in Butler County,” he said.
Fuller, along with others also discussed their personal experiences with loved ones in the county being diagnosed with autoimmune diseases such as Chron’s Disease and the high rates of these conditions in the areas. Residents showed their concern for the outcome of pollution and environmental harm that may occur.
State Rep. Steve Sheldon (R-Bowling Green) was also present to discuss his input on the situation. He pledged to help the county fight this battle and discussed how he is working on exploring options at the state level that will grant local government more say.
Sheldon sided with Judge Flener on the importance of being involved in the process as a community member and writing letters whenever given the chance. He applauded Flener for taking the necessary steps and expressed to the public that the reason he was at the meeting was because Judge Flener had reached out to him.
“He’s fighting hard and I’m gonna help you all fight with him,” said Sheldon.
Flener stated, “We have the rest of the state that we’ve got to get on board to help us get these laws and statutes changed in our state to give local government more authority and a little more power and say so in these types of landfills coming to our county,” said Judge Flener.
When resident Osei Thomas stated that the county should have heard about this issue sooner, Flener discussed that the courts have been working to keep the property from going to Owl’s Head since 2013, however it did not get finalized until 2018. It was also stated by Judge Flener and the magistrates that the matter has been public record throughout the whole process and published in the local newspaper, as well as in Beech Tree News.
Frank House stood up again to show those in attendance a map of the area and described where the property would be beginning and ending. He closed out his speech by explaining that the property comes within 50 yards of the city’s water intake and less than one mile from the High School.
“If it comes down to the permitting process – you folks are mad, you folks are upset – I want you to stay mad and upset so you’ll write these letters that Judge Flener is asking you to write and maybe we can get this thing halted,” House said.
Flener said that if a permit application went through, it would be another year and a half to two years before the facility opened. He also said that the fiscal court has meetings scheduled later this month with other counties to explore their options moving forward.
Judge Flener and Frank House reassured the public that they would be kept up to date on each step in the process as they receive information. All information including addresses to send the written letters to, as well as format and details needed in the letters will be provided to the public through the news and or fiscal court. Any further assistance needed in drafting the letters for the state can be provided by the DEP.
“It’s a process, but we won’t get anywhere if we don’t start doing something,” Flener said.