What Happened to the Millions from the TVA Coal Ash Contract?
Toxic TVA coal ash by the train load is filling up the local landfill only designed for household garbage, not hazardous waste, in Alabama’s Black Belt…
by Glynn Wilson
The Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County, Alabama — where TVA is hauling millions of tons of coal ash in one of the biggest environmental cleanups ever – has filed for bankruptcy protection just days before a major lawsuit was to be filed, sources say.
It is not clear whether this decision will stop shipments of the toxic fly ash to Alabama’s Black Belt, or halt the ongoing cleanup in the Emory River in Kingston, Tennessee.
It is also not clear where the money went from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which contracted with the landfill for millions of dollars to take the waste, although sources say it ended up in New Jersey, not Uniontown, Alabama.
Environmental lawyer David Ludder, who confirmed the bankruptcy petition, said he and other attorneys representing local residents are investigating the options available to those in the community.
He said the filing of the bankruptcy petition automatically stays or prevents any new lawsuits from being filed against the company, Perry County Associates, at this time.
“I see it as an opportunity for any new operator to do a better job,” Ludder said, “and an opportunity for the residents to approach them and demand that they do a better job.”
No one from the company could be reached for comment at the numbers listed in Uniontown or Atlanta on their Website.
But Jeffery Hartley, an attorney for Perry Uniontown Ventures, which filed for bankruptcy in federal court in Mobile, told the Birmingham News it had “no choice given Phillips and Jordan’s refusal to turn over monies to ownership, to make payments they had agreed to make, or to provide a proper accounting of the funds.”
Perry Uniontown Ventures I owns Arrowhead Landfill. Phillips & Jordan Inc., and Phill-Con Services operate the landfill under an agency agreement with Perry Uniontown Ventures.
Hartley said the bankruptcy filing would not affect the operation of the landfill, “which will continue to operate safely and effectively, without interruption.”
Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen says the landfill has not been operating safely or effectively, since he has discovered the company dumping liquid waste into ditches along the road in front of people’s houses.
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Eddie Dorsett, President Phill-Con Services, issued the following statement via e-mail Tuesday night after 11 p.m.
“While the bond-holders and the owner of the Perry County landfill work out some kind of agreement, it is important to understand those discussions are separate and apart from the day to day operation of the landfill, and have no effect on the employment of workers at the site, the safe disposal of the coal ash, or on the contract for disposal between TVA, Phill-Con Services, and Phillips and Jordan,” Dorsett said.
Perry-Uniontown Ventures owes Phillips & Jordan and Phill-Con for work performed and services rendered with respect to the landfill, he said.
To date, PUV’s earnings from the fly-ash disposed of by Phillips & Jordan at the Arrowhead Landfill do not cover the amount owed to P&J and Phill-Con Services, and “we have applied those funds to that outstanding balance,” Dorsett said. “We advised PUV about our plan to deal with the outstanding debt to us in a September letter. We have also made payments on PUV’s behalf for the host fees, financial assurance and other costs to ensure that the landfill continues to operate within all of the regulatory requirements.”
At the time of the permitting, he said, his company made several assurances to the federal regulators, the state and to the local government and neighbors in Perry County.
“We have honored each of those commitments and will continue to do so,” he said. “We promised the TVA coal ash disposal project would create new jobs, and it has. To date, we have hired 60 full-time equivalent jobs and have paid more than $2.5 million in total wages and benefits.”
He said the agreement called for payments to the county on every ton of coal ash disposed at the landfill.
“To date, we have made more than $800,000 in payments to Perry County,” he said.
As part of the contract with TVA and to satisfy requirements from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, he said, “we have made regular payments to a special fund to cover post-closure costs for the landfill.”
The most recent payment of $212,000 was made on time, he said, and the total fund is now in excess of $2.4 million.
“We promised local government and our neighbors that we would operate the landfill and the disposal of the coal ash in a safe and responsible manner,” he said.
To date, there have been three inspections by the state and another three inspections by a joint state/Environmental Protection Agency team, he said, and “there have been no notices of violations from any of these inspections.”
There have also been two public meetings held by EPA and ADEM, he said, and three inspections by the Federal Railroad Administration.
“Again, there were no violations from any of these activities,” he said. “Our contract with the current owner provides us with operational control of the landfill facility regardless of who owns it. Therefore, we want to assure the people of Perry County that we will continue to operate the facility in a safe and responsible manner, we will continue to provide good jobs, and we will continue to make good on our financial commitments.”
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