What’s going on with the proposed Madison County landfill?

NCL Waste landfill’s future could be tied to several court proceedings
Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 4:20 PM CDT
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MADISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - The future of a proposed Madison County landfill appears to be in limbo. However, the developer of the site hopes two lawsuits will spur the development along.

The Madison County board of supervisors refused to move forward with conducting a solid waste needs assessment for the county, something the state is requiring before it considers granting permits for the facility.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) permit board has postponed a vote on granting permits for the landfill until the results of the assessment are in.

At the heart of the matter is NCL Waste’s request to build a landfill at 2858 N. County Line Rd., in south Madison County. The 89-acre dump would be constructed on a roughly 166-acre site owned by the Bilberry Family L.P.

The landfill would be the third located in the county. The county already is home to the Little Dixie Landfill, also on North County Line, and a rubbish landfill.

NCL went before the permit board in January. Then, the board voted to take “no action on the permit applications until Madison County provides an updated needs assessment on the NCL Landfill.”

Months later, on July 20, supervisors voted down a request to hire a group known as Headwaters to perform the assessment.

The decision to deny the request was made for three reasons, according to board minutes. Among them, Little Dixie and Old Canton were requesting expansions of their landfills, minutes read. Also, supervisors said they were awaiting a ruling in Ridgeland’s annexation case.

NCL Waste has filed two suits in Madison County Circuit Court related to that vote.

Meanwhile, officials with MDEQ won’t say whether they’ll take up the matter again without the needs assessment being conducted. Spokesman Robbie Wilbur would say only that “there is no activity for the NCL Landfill by either the permit board of MDEQ at this time.”

MDEQ and the county aside, NCL’s plans could be thwarted by the city of Ridgeland.

The municipality is attempting to annex roughly 4.9 miles of property south and west of its current city limits, a swath of land that includes the landfill site.

Ridgeland officials have time and again voiced their opposition to the landfill.

Ridgeland’s annexation bid was approved recently by the Madison County Chancery Court.

However, it was unclear how Ridgeland could block the landfill. Mayor Gene McGee wouldn’t comment, saying the matter was under litigation.

On October 16, NCL Waste and Bilberry stated their intentions to appeal the matter to the Mississippi Supreme Court, documents show.

Attempts to bring in a third landfill date back nearly two decades.

In September 2002, supervisors voted unanimously to add the Bilberry site to its solid waste management plan, contingent on the approval of the board’s solid waste committee.

The committee approved the board’s decision that same month, and in January the following year, the county brought on IESI Mississippi Landfill Corporation to help the county meet MDEQ requirements as part of a “host fee” agreement.

That same year, the county amended its solid waste plan following a request from Bilberry to do so, and the following year, amended it again at the behest of MDEQ, court documents state.

In 2005, supervisors amended the county’s land use and transportation, essentially approving zoning for the site.

Additional amendments to the solid waste plan were made in 2007, and in 2008, the county agreed to make improvements to North County Line Road to aid in development of the site, court documents show.

In 2008, NCL Waste acquired IESI’s rights, and took over the host fee agreement. The board continued to support efforts to develop the landfill in the following years, including in 2009 when it sent correspondence to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in support of the plan, and in 2012 approved a height variance for the landfill.

After MDEQ denied NCL’s permit request in 2012, NCL decided to redesign the landfill project and brought on attorneys and engineers to meet with the state environmental agency to “prepare the best possible application,” according to court records.

NCL submitted a second permit application in 2017, the same application that was tabled by the permit board in January 2020.

At the time, permit officials said they were waiting for the county to conduct another needs assessment.

The decision came even as MDEQ staffers recommended granting the permits.

Mark Williams, chief of MDEQ’s waste division sent a letter to NCL on January 27 advising the company of the decision. The letter was addressed to Andrew Densing, and Madison County board president Gerald Steen was copied.

In June, attorneys with Butler Snow contacted County Administrator Shelton Vance, urging the county to conduct the assessment, saying the under their host fee agreement, county was required to cooperate with NCL Waste “in its efforts to obtain the relevant environmental permits.”

The board voted down a proposal to do so on July 20, and NCL filed an appeal to the circuit court on July 30.

In September, NCL filed another suit, seeking $60 million in damages related to the delays.

WLBT reached out to District Three Supervisor Gerald Steen, who was board president when as well as an attorney for NCL Waste. However, neither couldn’t be reached for comment.

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