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Nancy Smith

Panhandle Pressure Mounts against Waste Management's Deep Well

August 8, 2017 - 7:00pm

Waste Management does get what it wants most of the time. But every now and then, every once in a rare occasion, the behemoth garbage hauler feels the jolt of  a protest pushback.

March 14, 2016 was one of those times, when the company pursued a Class 1 deep injection well in Broward County, and determined residents backed by a feisty County Commission foiled their plans.

Waste Management wound up requesting a permit withdrawal on Dec. 14, nine months later.

The question is, can residents of Jackson County and the Panhandle, whose leaders are clearly opposed to the same kind of well at the Campbellton landfill, take heart in Broward's success?

At this point, Jackson County Manager Ernie Padgett isn't sure, but he's not standing still.

I Beg to Differ

"We've directed our attorney to go after an injunction against the Department of Environmental Protection permit they're trying to get," Padgett said. "We want to muster all the stakeholders, Waste Management and all the municipalities affected by drilling into the aquifer, to see if we can find an alternative to a deep injection well.

"There could be a little daylight there," he said.

Last year's victory for Broward County gives Padgett some hope.

For decades, Waste Management had sent its leachate -- the sometimes hazardous liquid that drains from waste in the Monarch Hill landfill -- by pipes to Broward County to be treated and then disposed of underground in an injection well about a mile away.

But corporate execs wanted to expand their business. They were seeking a permit to build their own well at Monarch Hill, with the possibility of allowing outside agencies to truck in their leachate -- or garbage juice. Which is exactly what Jackson County fears now, even though the hauler has said they won't pursue leachate contracts from other municipalities. 

Waste Management ultimately backed off of its own free will. The corporation asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to "pause" its application, to give it "time to evaluate other options including alternative disposal sites," according to a letter written by Bryan Tindell, a Waste Management director. 

The business decision in Broward to take garbage juice from all over brought the wrath of environmentalists and ordinary citizens who were concerned a well leak would allow untreated toxins to tamper with the water supply.

Coconut Creek city commissioners said the proposal could mean too many trucks carrying in outside leachate to Monarch Hill, the landfill known as "Mount Trashmore."

And residents asked, if you have a well already built that can still take leachate, why should the state allow Waste Management to tempt fate and incur a big risk by drilling another one just so it can make more money?

In September, Broward County and Waste Management reached a deal to stop the deep-well injection project from moving forward. According to a Sun-Sentinel story, Waste Management spokeswoman Dawn McCormick said its contract with the county was scheduled to end in December anyway, and that gave the two sides an opportunity to discuss "a long-term agreement" that ultimately ended in another solution.

Alas, Waste Management's contract with Jackson County is not up for renewal anytime soon.

But residents and local governments in the Panhandle are increasingly jumping on board the "No Well" train.

Towns and cities in some counties that fall in the same regional water basin, and thus depend on the same freshwater aquifers, including Walton, aren't waiting on their respective county commissions to either act or decide to sit on the sidelines. 

The City of Freeport on Four Mile Creek in Walton County, population about 1,500, unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday, according to Kelly Layman, a Walton County resident and former Department of Environmental Protection chief of staff  under Gov. Charlie Crist. Layman first sounded the alarm in Walton on the pending permit application, which she says "would be more devastating than the oil spill that never even landed on shore here. It made the whole county a temporary ghost town.

"There's no way to track contamination in daytime or the dead of night underground," Layman said, "and if there are carcinogenic toxins or a plume, there's no cheap clean-up plan when it's  'discovered' in public drinking water resources and has made private homeowner wells useless."

Besides Freeport, the NAACP, Jackson County Commission, the city of Marianna, town of Sneads, and Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, all are on record as adamantly against it. Walton County is yet to vote on its draft resolution. 

Layman, who has the ear of state legislators and even U.S. senators,  established the Facebook page "Safe Water for Walton" as a rallying point, where Panhandlers can go to comment and keep up on the issue. Traffic on the page is increasing. By the start of August the page had racked up more than 9,400 people reached and 2,661 of them engaged in the content.

Though the well would be located at the Jackson County landfill, Walton is still contiguous geologically. "Everything bad that happens underground to water resources in Jackson threatens Walton, and vice versa," Layman told July.

"I can't think of a worse place to inject leachate. Walton County has 16 spring-fed coastal dune lakes that don't exist anywhere else in the world. It has three public parks featuring magnitude springs, and there are five state parks within Walton run by DEP with a sixth state park right on the border with Bay County.

"Every water body connected to the Floridan Aquifer is spring fed, and they're all vulnerable to the potential failure of an injection well," she said. 

It's hard to find anybody in the region who actually favors risking their drinking water and the area's precious natural resources so Waste Management can inject garbage juice some 4,000 feet down. 

Class I wells, incidentally, are used to inject hazardous and non-hazardous wastes into deep, confined rock formations.  They are typically drilled thousands of feet below the lowermost underground source of drinking water (USDW). The geologies of the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes areas are best suited for these types of wells. Most Class I wells are found in there.

Approximately 30 percent of the 800 Class I wells in the United States are municipal wastewater disposal wells. All of them are located exclusively in Florida, according to the EPA

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


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I have seen the solar organite process work it is increadable, literally boils off the water leaving dry waste material. This process is very much worth looking into for this problem I recommend it.

Just boil into a vapor and release into the air for people to breathe. Great idea. Really!!!! So how many landfills are currently using this process?

We would be glad to help in protecting our waters. SolarOrganite, LLC has a Newly Patented Leachate Reduction Elimination Process with NO Discharge at the LOWEST COST. Leachate management is one of, if not the most significant long-term, recurring cost for landfill management. It accounts for up to 25 to 30 percent of the O&M costs. What’s more, leachate management continues well into most landfills’ post-closure period and will remain subject to evolving regulatory requirements. While it’s really important to consider each landfill’s site-specific circumstances before making any decisions, we can offer a new low cost way to eliminate cost with our newly developed SolarOrganite Process, it is economically feasible and environmentally sound approach to leachate management. The SolarOrganite method reduces the leachate volume, producing water vapor and a leachate concentrate that can be recycled to the landfill. Only using solar energy is the lowest cost effective alternatives. Let us know if you need help. SolarOrganite, LLC, 352-358-1222

I have seen this process in action. There is no odor as the water is boiled off leaving only the dried residual solids behind. Once dried the solids can be returned to the landfill without further risk to the surface and ground water. Landfills have the open area for this system with full sunlight to drive the process without any outside energy inputs. As others have said below, you don't use your sink as a toilet. Out of sight is never out of concern for long. This system seems to be a great solution for so many waste disposal problems.

So what is the name of the landfill you have seen this working at? And how much was being treated? Because when i research this i cant find anywhere its currently used at.

stupidity in the name of profit is still stupidity at the end of the day...

The concept of Not messing where you eat, has been lost in regards to the deep well injection of waste. Water is Life! We in Florida have been dumping waste into it for decades. When there was a small population, Mother Earth could deal with it. Today is a much different story. Especially when talking about leachate. This is the liquid stuff which is squeezed out of landfills. It gives nasty a new meaning and contains stuff which kills. At one time science said it was safe to inject it in deep wells.....HUMMMMMMMM. Doesn't make sense or seem logical in hindsight. We need to find another way.

Add to this insanity, the practice of paying millions of dollars annually to "Visit Florida" (and other "income schemes" to compound population growth,.. AND YES: TAX-WEALTH to feed the "political machine"), and you are in the process of creating "the perfect ecological storm" ONLY just to "feed" corporate Lobbys and politicians (with their hands in "someone else's pockets"); in hopes "it ALL doesn't come tumbling down" during their tenure, or "on their watch"...(their progeny be damned!!!!)

No injections needed. Just stop trying to save a buck and actually treat all liquid waste through a two-stage clarifier giga-flow system so the water is pristine and then release to spray fields to grow hay. DEP allows this through permitting all the time as a standard. Greed is always the cause of these problems.

Then why not shut all injection wells down? If the wwtp can clean it to drinking water standards then why are our treatment plants also using injection wells? I can promise they not spending millions of dollars to build well just to pump drinking water into.

Still havent received an answer but what do Mrs Laymen or Senator Gainer suggest we do about the ones we have in Bay County that were permitted and constructed while she was employed by FDEP and he was a Bay county commisioner? Keep ignoring them even though you say they dont work?

This "plan" by "Waste Management" in a State with an aquifer fed by AT LEAST a half dozen fresh water rivers (and tributaries) through the Florida peninsula, is the dumbest idea idea conceived by corporate/government morons since Jackson marched off the Indian Tribes along the "Trail of Tears"... I hope you idiots saw my last comment about what has been happening on/under Long Island, N.Y. over the last almost seven decades... and the "ignoring and denying" the illnesses, cancers and chronic sicknesses that have been occurring to the population despite government "feel good denials" by Federal so-called "EPA Super-Fund" sham cleanups. WAKE UP FLORIDA !....You've got magnificent fresh water rivers running the length of Florida (and a "Garbage Company" wants to piss in them where YOU can't see it happening?!?!? Any of YOU remember when the NY garbage company sent a barge loaded with its garbage up and down the east coast.for months and NO other State would take it, at ANY cost.). You "buy into this" Florida, and I got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell !

The tree huggers protested because that's what they do. A public hearing Aug 22nd in Martin will set the wheels in motion for a rate increase combined with a reduction in service.

I agree. Another poorly researched one sided news article. Not sure how we can call Broward county a win. Instead of drilling their own well , they are back to pumping it a mile down the road into a well owned by the county. Remind me how this is a win or any safer. I guess its a win for anyone at the county who is fattening their wallet. Either the injection well technology works or it doesnt. Either ban them all and shut down all of them currently in use or stop complaining only when you are not making money off of it.

Comments are now closed.

nancy smith

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