Scott County Landfill Expansion

April 14 2017 | Blog
  • Kentucky Scott County Landfill Expansion Injury Attorney

    Georgetown Residents Concerned Over Possible Safety Hazards

    From odor issues to property value impact, to health and environmental concerns, landfill sites have been frequent sources of controversies and the recurrent subject of lawsuits. There are approximately 2,000 operational municipal solid waste disposal areas and their impact on the lives of US citizens is palpable.∗ For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, landfills are the second-largest industrial source of methane emissions in the US. However, waste dumps sometimes create much more subtle, smaller-scale problems that may bring dramatic consequences for people living in their proximity. Such is the case with the Central Kentucky Landfill located in Scott County, KY, near the city of Georgetown. This particular disposal area, managed by Waste Services of the Bluegrass, LLC, is a source of growing concern for the local residents, especially in the view of a recent proposition to expand the landfill site by more than 500 acres. The Scott County locals oppose that motion for a variety of reasons.

    Landfill Operations and Scott County Road Safety

    One of the biggest concerns being voiced pertains to possible road safety hazards. Until recently, the trucks going to and from the landfill almost exclusively used the US-25 state road that is relatively narrow. According to the residents, US-25 is ill-suited for this type of heavy vehicles and the additional traffic the expansion of the disposal area would generate. The residents point out that the road features narrow shoulders and goes through an area with 600 homes and an elementary school.
    Those concerns do not appear to be unsubstantiated. Already, the nearby city of Georgetown sends to the landfill about 10 trucks a day; at the same time, about 40 heavy vehicles more transport the waste daily from the neighboring Fayette County. All this traffic on a relatively narrow state road can easily give rise to dangerous and sometimes deadly situations. For example, last September, Kim Smith, a 58-year-old resident of Georgetown, was killed in an accident involving a garbage truck owned by Central Kentucky Landfill and Hauling and a sanitation truck owned by the Georgetown Public Works. According to Scott County Sheriff’s Department, the sanitation truck driver lost control of the vehicle, crossed the center line, and caused a near head-on collision with the garbage truck coming from the other direction. The garbage truck then collided with the car driven by Kim Smith, which in turn caused it to smash into the roadside fence. The Georgetown resident was pronounced dead at the scene.
    Because of the above-mentioned accident, in early January of this year, both the city of Georgetown and Waste Services of the Bluegrass agreed to reroute their trucks to the Interstate-75 road that bypasses more densely populated areas. Nevertheless, in March, another incident involving a commercial garbage truck was reported on the US-25 road, again provoking public outcry. This time, a garbage truck sideswiped a bus carrying 20 students, smashing the bus’s mirrors and breaking a window. Fortunately, nobody was hurt; however, the incident sparked additional concerns about road safety issues connected with the traffic to the landfill. Nick Valasko, a local resident, said: “Everybody in my family including myself has been almost run off the road or pushed from behind by these trash trucks”.

    Other Concerns and Possible Legal Options to Pursue

    Road safety issues are not the only concern raised by Scott County residents in relation to the landfill site expansion. In public hearings held in January, the locals mentioned many other objections to the proposal. Some stated their disapproval about already existing odor issues. Others asked if there were any air quality measures in place or whether there were plans to introduce them. Moreover, information on long-term health effects of living in a close proximity of the landfill was requested. Potential decrease in property value was also cited.

    As of yet, nothing indicates that the residents intend to pursue any kind of legal action or file a class action lawsuit against the landfill. Such a case, however, would not be without precedent. For example, in 2014, Republic Services Inc. agreed to pay at least $4.6 million in a final settlement of a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of residents of Bridgeton, MO, over odor issues. A similar settlement for $2 million was reached with the operator of Pennsylvania landfill in January of 2016. Interestingly enough, there were even cases where the plaintiffs were awarded damages because landfill-related issues resulted in a decline in the prices of properties.† Moreover, if a link between materials disposed of at the landfill and health issues experienced by local residents is discovered and proven, a toxic tort lawsuit may be brought on behalf of an individual or a group. Such a lawsuit may be based, for example, on a negligence claim. It must be noted, however, that usually, the causal link between the exposure to a substance and particular harm experienced is difficult to prove in a court of law.

    Similarly, there are no indications that a case was pursued after the fatal road accident last September or the school bus incident in March. Neither has there been sufficient information released to speculate about possible causes of the accidents and point out the at-fault parties. However, it may be noted that a company owning and operating a truck fleet might be liable for damage and injuries caused in an accident that involved one of its vehicles. For example, a company might be found to be at fault due to negligence if it is proven that the company has not taken sufficient measures to ensure the safety of their vehicles or if the drivers have not been properly instructed to observe safety regulations.

    The Central Kentucky Landfill’s permit for operation expires on June 30 this year. The company already applied to have the permit renewed until 2022. It is not yet known whether such a renewal will be issued. However, the permission to expand the disposal site was denied and the Scott County Board of Adjustment stated that the land for expansion needs to be rezoned. Although not likely to soothe the already existing grievances, the decision will certainly be welcome by the Scott County residents concerned about landfill-related issues.

    *As of 2012, according to Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2012 by Environmental Protection Agency

    †Resource Investments Landfill Facility, Pierce County: Environmental Impact Statement, Vol. 1, 81, Northwestern University, 1995


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