Woodward, Okla. —
Flat tires, refrigerators in the road, plastic bags in fields. These are all problems that landowners who live near the landfill said they are tired of dealing with.
A group of these landowners attended Tuesday's bimonthly meeting of the Northwestern Oklahoma Solid Waste Disposal Authority to share their concerns and complaints and ask for assistance from the landfill board in addressing the issues.
The landowners included Larry Endersby, Marcia Endersby, Tate Endersby, David Guthrie, Larry Miller, Lynette Terbush and Vic Terbush.
"A lot of the problems are from construction companies," Guthrie said.
He said construction material will often fall or blow off from unsecured loads, including everything from insulation which blows into their fields around the county roads leading to the landfill to nails that fall on the road, which their vehicles might drive over, causing their tires to go flat.
Miller said he has receipts showing over $200 that he has spent in the last 6 months to fix flat tires or replace tires that have too many holes to be fixed anymore.
He said he recently had to get all new tires for his wife's car after learning that "one had 17 holes in it."
And Miller is not alone in feeling the frustration from flat tires.
"Come drive my roads and feel my anguish," Lynette Terbush said. "Feel my pain when I'm getting ready to go to work and I can't because I have a flat. Feel my pain and do something about it."
While the flat-causing nails are frustrating, they're not always the biggest worry.
"When you drive down the road and there's a refrigerator in the middle of the road, that can cause some problems, especially if someone were to drive up on it at night," said Larry Endersby. "Something needs to be done."
In addition to the threats posed to human well being, Guthrie said the trash can also pose a risk to livestock.
He said that several years ago a piece of blue tarp had blown away from someone's load of trash and into one of his cattle fields, where a heifer he had purchased for breeding came across it.
"She started chewing on it and eventually got the whole thing in her and it ended up killing her," Guthrie said.
However, he and his fellow landowners felt that no one else really cares about the problem.
"Everybody's concerned about a little bit of public money, none are concerned about private money," Guthrie said.
Miller expressed doubt over anything being done to assist the landowners, saying "they won't do anything because they don't have to live it."
HELP WITH ENFORCEMENT
The landowners all said that much of their frustrations stem from the lack of enforcement of a state law that says trash being hauled to a landfill must be secured with a tarp or in a closed container.
Landfill Manager Lance Hensley said the landfill tried to do its part to curtail this problem by charging more to those who failed to secure their load when they come dump.
"We were double charging for people's loads that were not secured, but then we got shut down," Hensley said. "Someone from some agency came and told us that we don't have the authority to enforce that by charging more."
Rather it seems to be up to law enforcement to be willing to monitor the trash traffic and fine those who are not adhering to the secured-load rules.
"If they would just start writing fines, and it wouldn't take too many times, by the time you fined 3 people $1,000, word would get around town and stop this dumping," Vic Terbush said.
"Is there a way we can get the Sheriff's Office more involved?" Larry Endersby asked.
County Commissioner Vernie Matt, who was also in attendance because the roads around the landfill are in his district, said "I can sure talk to him (Sheriff Gary Stanley)."
But while many enforcement issues may fall outside the authority of the landfill board and landfill employees, the landowners did feel there were other things that could be done at the landfill to help the situation.
"Some of this might be out of the scope of the landfill board, but we also believe this board has a responsibility to protect the environment, livestock and the people living near the landfill," Guthrie said.
One of their recommendations was for the landfill to look into getting a new magnet for the tractor they take around to try to pick up nails and other loose metal pieces that fall from the trucks hauling trash to the landfill.
The landfill manager agreed that a new magnet would be a good investment.
"We try to run the magnet 2 times a week on the main traveled roads around the landfill, but we know we don't get all of the nails and things. I think a new magnet would be a good idea," Hensley said.
Especially since the current magnet has already had to be rebuilt and has lost some of its power, he said.
Hensley then promised the landfill board that he would check into whether there was a state bid out for the magnets so he could potentially proceed with purchasing a new one, which he estimated would cost around $7,000 to $8,000.
Another recommendation the landowners made was to look into having an after hours drop-off point. They said that part of the problem is that people who go out in the evening will find out the landfill is closed and instead of hauling their load back again will dump it on one of their county roads.
Again Hensley said the landfill tried having an after-hours drop off location, "but they would dump all the way around it, not in it."
"That's better than on our roads though," Miller said.
But beyond being messy, the after-hours drop off would present a problem because there is no way to charge those who use it. And once people find out they can dump for free at night, the landfill would lose money because they would likely stop coming to dump during the day, when there is a fee.
Also Hensley said the after-hours drop off would bring up problems with the Department of Environmental Quality because there is no way to monitor whether someone was dumping hazardous materials.
MORE HELP SOUGHT
But the after-hours dumping isn't the only idea that the landowners had.
Miller said he feels that another step that might improve the situation would be to close a portion of the county road that leads into the landfill from the south.
By doing this, he said it would force people to take the paved road off of Highway 412 from the north into the landfill.
Commissioner Matt agreed that was the reason that the county paved that road in the first place, to encourage people to use that route into the landfill.
"If you just limit access to the landfill from the north, then that will eliminate a lot of our problems," Miller said.
But much like the enforcement of the secured-load law, the landfill board said they have no control over how customers arrive at the landfill.
Board Treasurer Junior Salisbury said "it's hard to keep them from going where they want, because these people pay their taxes too so they have a right to use whatever roads they want."
However, County Commissioner Tommy Roedell, who is also a member of the landfill board, and County Clerk Charolett Waggoner, who serves as secretary for the landfill board, told the landowners that they could petition the county commission for a road closure.
Waggoner said the landowners must submit a letter listing which specific road they are wanting to close in order for the matter to be put on the county agenda. She said if her office receives the letter before Thursday afternoon she can include it on the commissioners' next agenda for Monday, Aug. 19.
However, she told them that "there won't be a decision made on the road closing on Monday because it has to be published and a public hearing will be set, then after listening to concerns at the public hearing, the commissioners will vote."
But Salisbury warned that the road closure could be rejected "if they get a lot of protests."