Palmer Waste Dump Plan Draws Opposition

About one hundred people turned out to speak at a Matanuska Susitna Borough planning commission meeting on Monday. At issue – a plan to construct an inert construction debris dump on private land near Palmer.  

Central Monofil Services wants to dump construction debris — some of it containing asbestos– on land near Palmer. The Anchorage based company has applied, twice now, to the Matanuska Susitna Borough for a conditional use permit to use a five acres of a 118 acre gravel pit the company owns as a site for a so called monofil, but the Borough planning commission turned down the company’s first request in 2013.

Now, Alex Strawn, development services manager for the Borough, says the planning department is looking at the new application with a “fresh perspective.”

“Our official recommendation is approval with forty different protective conditions, and on Monday I urged the planning commission to take our suggestion, but also use caution.”

 Strawn says he’s recommending approval, because Central Monofil has checked off a long laundry list of studies and tests and hired a battery of environmental services to meet the conditions of the monofil application, although Strawn admits he has reservations about the dump’s possible effect on the water table.

“So there is some concern that the height of the water table is a moving target. There are other influences that could potentially change the height of the water table. There’s a unresolved issue with the industrial ponds just to the North of the pit, that could potentially affect the height of the water table, and there is also a gravel pit operation North of the proposed development that is intending on doing some dredging operation that could also potentially cause the water table to rise.”

Strawn says current Borough code is not geared to Central Monofils type of development, and he strongly suggests that a liner be put underneath the dump site.  He is also recommending that Central Monofil create a 15 foot buffer between the dump and the water table. AK Dept. of Environmental Conservation requires a 10 foot high  buffer.”

 Borough planning commission approval is necessary for the operation to begin. But proceedings at Monday night’s planning commission meeting were cramped by the absence of two commissioners. A third commissioner was recused from voting, because of a hint of conflict. Stuart Jacques, representing Central Monofil Services, defended the proposal before the commissioners.

“The design and operations plan for the inert waste monofils are reviewed and permitted by ADEC. This proposed monofil is designed in strict accordance with the ADEC requirements. The only waste allowed to be disposed in this monofil is classified as inert material by ADEC. No municipal, toxic or hazardous waste will be accepted at the facility.”

 Laurie Aldrich, AK DEC regional program manager for solid waste, said at the meeting that a number of the Borough conditions placed on the monofil are already covered in the state regulations. Aldrich also said that the state permit application is complete, but is pending on the close of a public notice period which ends on December 29.

 Most of those who came to offer public comment were against the plan, like farmer Ben VanderWeele and homeowners Rose Williams and Craig Kelly.

 “The whole scenario tells me they are sneaky operators. They tried to get away with illegal practices and got caught. I do not want them as my neighbor. The risks to health and quality of life are just too great.”

“Would you risk the trust and the health of a community because of one company’s financial gain? If our waters become polluted, who will explain that to the mothers and fathers of children who develop illnesses long term.”

“These people here, they’re coming out of Anchorage and dumping all their crap in our yards. We don’t want it.. WE DON’T WANT IT!”

In the end, no vote was taken, and the meeting was continued until December 15.

Alex Strawn says if the planning commission approves the plan, there is a fifteen day period afterward for appeal by any interested party.