Plan commission schedules second hearing on monofill

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By Vince Luecke

CHRISNEY - After listening to concerns about dust, air and water quality and rare animals such as bobcats for nearly three hours last week, members of the Spencer County Plan Commission agreed to meet again Jan. 28 to continue discussion of plans for a proposed industrial monofill in Huff Township.

By then, a committee of commission members is expected to present a list of possible conditions ThyssenKrupp Waupaca will be required to accept before the commission considers granting a favorable recommendation.

Unlike conventional landfills that take a variety of items, monofills accept only one type of waste. The company's plans for a monofill on more than 100 acres owned by Paul Metz drew more concern than praise during a hearing at the Youth and Community Center, with neighbors voicing concerns over dust and increased truck traffic. Other county residents said the monofill, which would accept sand from the Tell City foundry, would add to air quality problems and could pose health hazards. Still others questioned why the company, based in Perry County, couldn't find a site here to dispose of the sand-based material used in the casting of gray and ductile iron products.

Supporters said the project will protect the jobs of 171 Spencer Countians working at the foundry and would provide side benefits, including added monitoring of an adjacent former landfill.

The issue before the commission was a request for a special exception that would allow the company to seek a state permit for the monofill. The plan commission is a recommending body to the county's board of zoning appeals, which has final say on the request, as well as a separate variance the company will need to move forward.

Tuesday's discussion centered on the company's need for a new monofill once an existing facility near Troy reaches its capacity in several years. Company officials said the site off Indiana 70 is relatively close and large enough to ensure a buffer while serving the foundry's needs for decades. ThyssenKrupp Waupaca's existing monofill in Troy is expected to be filled between 2014 and 2018.

Nearby landowners raised concerns about dust from the foundry sand the monofill would accept, truck traffic and broader concerns about why Spencer County would want to accept waste from a company doing business in another county. Jean Dolezal, who lives near the site, pointed out several concerns she said should prevent the commission from issuing a favorable recommendation.

She told commission members the land would be more productive as farmland than a landfill.

"Allowing Perry County industrial waste to permanently destroy Spencer County farmland does not improve our citizens' health, safety or welfare," she said. "It would absolutely have a negative impact on our lives."

Dolezal said trucks turning off and onto Indiana 70 would make accidents more likely, while dust from the site would make drying laundry outdoors all but impossible. She also pointed out health concerns caused by dust.

With the Ohio River to the south and Holiday World to the north, both major draws for the county, a monofill in the county's center is not what the community needs. "Placing another county's yuck as filling for this sandwich would encourage growth as the dumping ground of southern Indiana," she told the commission.

She said people concerned about the monofill talked with residents living near the current facility at Troy and they reported dust problems. One woman said she walked across her lawn one morning in white tennis shoes only to find them covered in a black soot that had settled on the grass.

Attorney Krista Lockyear, who said she represented the Dolezal family, told the commission it should only consider special exceptions to existing zoning regulations for projects that are deemed essential. The monofill, she said, doesn't meet that criteria.

Others suggested the county would reap more long-term benefits by using the land for residential development, something they said might generate more property-tax income. Some residents said the proximity of a monofill would lessen nearby property values, causing owners to request reduced assessed valuations, which if granted would cost the county revenue.

Rodney Fortwendel, who said his family owns land in the area, worried about decreased property values and the impact of the project on rare and endangered animals, including bobcats seen in the area.

Others raised environmental concerns. Rex Winchell of Rockport said the county can't afford another contributor to pollution that already ranks the county near the top among the state's 92 counties.

 He said breathing particles of sand can cause serious lung damage, a disease called silicosis.

Don Mottley of the group Save Our Rivers said the project could threaten local water supplies in areas south of the site. He said many Spencer Countians obtain their water from those areas along the Ohio River. He asked about whether the site's geologic features had been assessed.

Other neighbors asked about the impact on the look of the area, with cells reaching heights of up to 100 feet before being capped with clay and sowed with grass.

ThyssenKrupp Waupaca representative Bryant Esch said initial probings have been done but a much more thorough review would be taken once zoning issues are cleared.

Esch said an average of 10 trucks would unload at the site each day and the company would take steps to reduce dust. Individual monofill cells would be surrounded by acres of grass and cropland would remain in grass or crops, providing an effective buffer.

Esch said the Troy monofill site has been successful and concerns that were present years ago, including complaints about dust, have been answered.

The company would also be required to install monitoring wells and that investment would also help monitor the nearby landfill that has been closed for many years, but is still under state monitoring.

Dolezal and others suggested the number of trucks unloading at the site would be greater than 10.

Company officials said volume would depend on economic conditions that affect output at the foundry as  well as sales of slag and other material that is often used for road and other construction projects.

Metz, the owner of the land, said he had relatives, including young nieces and nephews, living in the area and wouldn't be considering a sale of the land to the company if he thought the project posed concerns.

"I wouldn't harm them for anything," he said.

The commission is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Youth and Community Center.