published Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Rhea County officials ask landfill operator to resolve complaints

  • photo
    Cheryl Dunson, vice president of marketing for landfill operator Santek Waste Services.
    Photo by Randall Higgins /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

DAYTON, Tenn. — A recent inspection shows Rhea County's landfill is operating within state guidelines, but about 40 neighbors of the Smyrna Road site told county commissioners the report does not address their concerns.

The residents complained Tuesday about odor from the facility, muddy roads caused by trucks leaving the site and unsafe traffic conditions created by waste trucks.

Cheryl Dunson, vice president of marketing for landfill operator Santek Waste Services, said the facility's wheel washer had been inoperative until recently and the company is planning to upgrade it to fix the road dirt problem. She said the company would "do a better job of controlling our trucks," but "we need help from the county with enforcement" for other haulers.

Commission Chairman Jim Reed told Dunson the company has 30 days to get the wheel washer fixed.

"If you don't, we're going to the county attorney," Reed said. "I've been on this board 18 months, and I've heard about the wheel washer for 18 months. If you want to be a good neighbor, help us resolve this issue."

Dunson, responding to earlier reports of E. coli contamination of groundwater around the landfill, said a state inspection in late February showed area contamination levels "465 times higher than at the overflows from the landfill." But she said Santek would investigate complaints that runoff from the landfill was flowing onto neighboring properties.

She also said she would take to the company president requests to hire an air quality monitor to investigate complaints of noxious odors.

Complaints about hours the landfill operates were referred to County Attorney Carol Barron when commissioners and Dunson could not agree on the meaning of language in the contract.

She also said the company is willing to negotiate with the county the possibility of charging a tipping fee for local waste, as requested by the commission. Commissioners said they need new revenue to pay for solid waste collection. But Dunson said local tipping fees, which now are not charged, violate the intention of the contract when it was approved by the commission in the late 1990s.

Tom Davis is based in Dayton. Contact him at

about Tom Davis...

Tom is the director of public information at Bryan College and has been in the Dayton community for 30 years.

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