(MURFREESBORO) Approximately forty community leaders boarded a charter bus at 7:00 o'clock Saturday (9/15/2018) morning, and went to Sevierville to learn about Sevier Solid Waste, Inc. They make compost and that helps to keep 93 per cent of waste from their landfill.
Landfill Is #1 Challenge
Newly elected County Mayor Bill Ketron has only been on-the-job for two-weeks, but he knew going-in that the number one challenge was the rapidly filling landfill in Walter Hill. Forecasts call for the landfill to close in five to eight years when it reaches capacity. Republic Services operates the for-profit landfill.
Would Composting Work Here?
Sevier County Solid Waste has a 20-year positive track record of solving landfill problems in East Tennessee. This non-profit group does not create offensive odors for neighbors and keeps approximately 93 per cent of that area's waste out of the landfill. But would it work for Rutherford County?
Rutherford County's Landfill and Solid Waste Director Mac Nolen toured the facility. After that, NewsRadio WGNS asked him if a facility like that would answer our local needs . . .
Sevier County Composting Plant
NewsRadio WGNS went on the tour, and as you neared the facility, there were no offensive smells. That's because steam, air and waste by-products are blown underground through pipes and that air is not released until it goes through a special filter bed that is about 400-feet from the quonset hut structures. While you are inside the composting part of the plant, the odor is a little rough, but that smell does not get outside.
WGNS News asked Sevier County Solid Waste General Manager Tom Leonard about their two-decade success with composting . . .
Leonard explained that only 25 employees are needed to operate the facility on a six day per week basis. They charge a $40 per ton tipping fee to private haulers. That rate has not changed for 20-years.
He noted, "We're not here to make a profit. It's a service to the citizens of Sevier County. Our goal is to do the needed job and not make a profit--but to cover all of our expenses."
Leonard commented, "Our Class A compost can be used anywhere--in gardens or as rich soil to fill lawns."
By the way, Tom Leonard has been there from the beginning.
In addition to creating compost, Sevier Solid Waste, Inc. also recycles the county's garbage.
You might think that it would be difficult to compare Sevier County to Rutherford, however--this facility is used for the entire county...including Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and all of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When you add tourists to the mix, it serves a population comparable and often larger than ours.
Speeding-Up Composting Process
Leonard explained that his compost is created in the same way that gardeners have been doing for centuries, but the Sevierville process has been super-charged to take only about 30-days.
He explained that by adding a mix of flour, sugar, along with waste from breweries and other yeast producing factories is the secret ingredient.
With that news, County Mayor Ketron had a broad smile . . .
Dream Big...Take Down The Mountain!
You could see "light bulbs" switching-on in the minds of Rutherford County visitors as they walked through the composting plant.
In fact, Donna Barrett really got excited . . .
Dominant Landfill Question from WGNS' Listeners
The topic of the rapidly filling Walter Hill Landfill on Jefferson Pike arises regularly on WGNS' talk shows. One question is always asked, "Why does Rutherford County allow garbage from Nashville and surrounding counties to be dumped here?" Each time the answer is that government sold the rights to the landfill land to a private industry, and their goal is to make a return on their investment. Plus, laws protect private enterprise from being told how much money they can make from an investment.
Let Your Elected Leaders Know
Each city in Rutherford County was invited to be a part in the Saturday bus tour to the Sevier County composting plant. In addition, county commissioners and state leaders were there. Let them know if you support the composting idea, and whether you feel the rights should again be sold to a private developer or constructed and operated by local government.
State Representative Mike Sparks commented, "I like what Bill Ketron said--It's time to quit talking about the problem and let's find solutions, every option should be on the table."
Here are the government leaders who attended:
Bill Ketron, County Mayor
Joe Frank Jernigan
Representing the Municipalities
Ronnie Martin, Murfreesboro City Council
Mary Esther Reed, Smyrna Mayor
Brian Hercules, Smyrna
State of Tennessee
Rep. Tim Rudd
Rep. Mike Sparks
Donna Barrett, former state representative and research specialist
Kathy Mathis, MTSU
Rachel Cornett, Recycle Rutherford
Along with local media.
Arrived Home Saturday Evening
When the bus arrived back home and pulled into MTSU's Greenland Drive parking lot, County Mayor Bill Ketron shared this final comment with WGNS . . .