Gas and odors from landfill taint south Scott air

By TIM GETER,

Al Bergin lives a mile from the Clearview landfill in south Scott County and says there are times he can’t even leave his house. “On some days going outside is not an option because of the heavy cloud of odor that fills the air,” Bergin said.

For at least the past two years residents like Bergin near Mudline road, Morton Marathon Rd, and 501 South have expressed concerns about dangerous fumes seeping out of the landfill and lingering over their homes, depending on the direction of the wind flow. They have concerns of material being dumped in the landfill that could affect their health.

Residents within a 10-mile radius are feeling the effects of the odor in the air. In December the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) requested that Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH) initiate an air monitoring and sampling in response to odor concerns by the residents. One test conducted by the CTEH identified Hydrogen sulfide.

 According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas with a ‘rotten egg’ smell. Hydrogen sulfide is produced by bacterial breakdown of organic materials and human and animal wastes.”

This chemical compound is considered an irritant and asphyxiant. It can affect a person’s breathing and nervous system. With short term exposure to elevated levels of this gas it can cause coughing, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. It can also cause headaches, nausea and breathing difficulties. Moderate situations can cause accumulation of fluid build up in the lungs, vomiting, dizziness, and staggering. High concentrations can cause unconscious, stop breathing, and death.

Bergin said that he has owned his land for seven years. “The landfill odor and gas, became a major problem in the summer of 2016, the year I built my house. The odor was so bad the builders couldn’t work,” Bergin said. “I thought this must be a temporary problem because I had no issues before now. So, I contacted MDEQ.”

Bergin also said, “when my grandchildren come to my house, they can’t even go out and play on the days that the cloud of gas comes onto my property.”

In November a letter addressing concerns was written to Ethan Mayeu of the MDEQ, from the Chambers Clearview Environmental Landfill, Inc . The letter stated, “Clearview Landfill is submitting this correspondence to address recent landfill odors.” The letter was summarized in the order that the actions would be dealt with stating, “apply additional operational cover soils, Implement use of odor neutralizers for malodorous waste loads (City of Jackson basin sludge, chicken offal), Install impermeable cap (will initially be of clay, possibly followed by geosynthetic), enhance landfill gas collection by the installation of near surface gas collectors, and the expansion of gas collector control systems – expect completion in approximately 45 days.”

“We are not sure that they have done anything because the problem seems to be getting worse and worse depending on which way the wind blows,” Bergin said.

Marianne Ortiz a spokesperson for waste management said in an email  Monday regarding fixing the nuisance problem, “Waste Management is in the process of completing a comprehensive construction plan designed to reduce odors at Clearview landfill. This project includes the installation of a synthetic landfill cap, and expansion of the landfill gas collection system. These engineered enhancements will improve the landfill gas collection efficiency, which should result in mitigating off-site odors. Weather permitting, these projects are planned to be completed within the next eight weeks.”

District 2 Supervisor Tim Sorey said Monday, “I have been staying in touch with the personnel at the landfill and waste management about this issue.” Sorey also says that he is willing to work with both sides to help to solve this issue anyway that he can.”

Senator Terry C. Burton said that he realizes that it is a nuisance and that, “we are working our way to try and find a solution.”

 While solutions to fix the problem are pending, another resident that lives five miles from the landfill also said that he started smelling the odor in the summer of 2016 and thought it was a gas leak of some kind. “When I first realized the smell I didn’t pay much attention to it, it had a distinct smell such as a rotten egg. I thought it was natural gas or maybe an 18-wheeler hauling some type of material,” Ed Eichelberger said. “However, as time went on it started to get stronger and stronger.” Eichelberger said that his asthma has started getting worse. “Sometimes on a day that the odor is very strong my face will get chapped,” Eichelberger said. “This landfill has been here for 27 years and this has not occurred until the summer of 2016, getting worse and worse as time went on.”

There are a few residents that believe Hydrogen Sulfide is not the only gas that is causing the odor. “It is said that this particular gas that was tested, hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs,” Ricky Wilkerson said.  He also said that this is not what he smells. “I believe that we are having a problem that has multiple types of gases and fumes that we are dealing with.”

For some residents as they explain this has been their home through generations and for others its where they have built their retirement homes. Two residents that are nearby neighbors on Hwy. 501 about five miles from the landfill are Randy Martin and Barney Finch. “About a year a half ago, my wife and I smelled what we thought was a gas leak. So, we called the gas company, and had them come and check. The gas company assured us that we did not have a leak,” Finch said. “The smell still lingers to this day. At times it is strong, and other times, not as strong. I have cows that I feed on Mudline Road, and during this past winter, the odor has been significant.”

Martin stated that this is where he built a retirement home for he and his wife. “I have built my home and this is where I’m going to be,” Martin said. Martin also stated that he has been more ill over the last year than he has ever been. “When I walk outside and the odor is at its fullest it burns my eyes and throat. I have to immediately go back inside,” he added.

There are residents along Mudline road that believe that the odor can be potentially bad for the health of the people and children that are introduced to it. Residents also say that it’s not only outdoors but it also gets into the houses. “On February 10, I believe that the odor was as bad as it has ever been south of the landfill on Mudline,” Marcus Grey said. “When I was outside on the 10th, I had a burning sensation in my throat and chest, I had to retreat back inside the house.” Grey also said that there are children that have to get off the bus and  children that are four to ten years old that play outside who are continuously breathing in the air. “We have no Idea what it’s doing to us and these children,” Grey said.  “It looks like someone would do something about it.”

David Tadlock another resident on Mudline Rd. “We have to smell this odor in the air every day. We in this area want to know what this odor is. We have people including children that live in this area and we as residents need answers,” Tadlock said. “Whatever this is can not be good for a person’s health.”