Landfill permit denied

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By David Giuliani

State Environment Secretary Ron Curry on Monday denied a special waste permit for the private regional landfill in Wagon Mound.

At the same time, he approved a permit to allow the Northeastern New Mexico Regional Landfill to accept municipal solid waste for another 10 years.

The landfill, operated by Missouri-based Herzog Environmental Inc., takes most of Las Vegas and San Miguel County’s garbage.

Inez May, who works for Herzog at the landfill, said her company wasn’t aware of the decision until a reporter called her Monday afternoon.

Many residents in Wagon Mound and surrounding areas protested the special waste permit, though most didn’t oppose the permit for municipal solid waste.

The special waste permit would have allowed the landfill to accept asbestos contaminated materials, packing house and killing plant offal, ash, petroleum contaminated soil, municipal wastewater treatment plant sludge, industrial solid waste and treated formerly characteristic hazardous waste.

According to a press release, Curry denied the special waste permit because the landfill owners failed to provide estimates of the amount and frequency of disposal of special waste; did not provide adequate notice to interested parties on the quantity, rate, type or origin of the waste; and failed to provide a disclosure form about the person certified to handle asbestos waste.

The press release states that the landfill also didn’t address legitimate public concerns on adverse societal impact and well-being.

The Environment Department alleged that the landfill has a history of failing to submit reports and violating conditions previously imposed by the state. It also has had problems with air quality standards, the agency contended.

The landfill didn’t include a full history of its violations in its application, the press release states.

“The landfill is dependent on Herzog’s expertise in the disposal of special waste, but Herzog is a third-party contractor that can be discharged at any time,” the release states.

Curry denied a similar special waste permit in 2004. The landfill accepted special waste from 2000 to 2002, but the state Court of Appeals stopped that activity based on inadequate public notice requirements.

The approval of the 10-year municipal solid waste permit allows the landfill to expand by 82 acres to develop a rail transfer area that would allow garbage to be delivered by railroad.

In August, George Zanter, vice president and general manager of the Wagon Mound landfill, said the special waste permit wasn’t cause for alarm.

“Basically, it’s non-hazardous waste. It’s not more of a threat than the municipal waste that we’re taking in,” he said.

At the time, he said the special waste would take special handling and testing to make sure it’s not hazardous.

Zanter said this morning that his company was preparing a statement in response to the state’s decision.

The Concerned Citizens of Wagon Mound and Mora County has waged the battle against the special permit applications for years. Members of the group have alleged that the special waste would hurt the health of the community.

Sofia Martinez of Wagon Mound, who is president of Concerned Citizens, said her group received much support from people in Mora and San Miguel counties.

“We’re really happy about this decision,” she said. “It’s a people’s victory. We are appreciative of the leadership of the New Mexico Environment Department. He (Curry) has really walked the walk about environmental justice.”