by Steven Hale
For several years, residents and local officials in Camden, Tenn., have been protesting a commercial landfill that they say was built, expanded, and approved by the state in violation of the Jackson Law, a little-known law designed to give residents and local bodies some say in the matter.
A final hearing in a lawsuit between residents, Robert Martineau, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Environmental Waste Solution, the landfill's operator, is scheduled for today at 1:30 p.m. in Davidson County Chancery Court, with Judge Carol McCoy presiding.
According to documents filed by the plaintiffs, both the city of Camden and Benton County adopted the Jackson Law in 1993. The plaintiffs assert that since that time, neither the city nor the county has taken the steps required to satisfy the law. Therefore, they claim, TDEC did not have the authority to act on the site — whether in 2004, when the landfill initially expanded, or in 2011, when the agency approved modifications to its expansion permit.
TDEC disagrees. The agency cites letters from the county and city in 2004 that say an expansion was approved. The plaintiffs counter that the expansion approval letter sent to TDEC by the city of Camden made no mention of the Jackson Law, and that state officials had no way (and did nothing) to verify that the law had been followed. TDEC has argued that it is not the agency's duty to determine whether local governments complied.
But there's more at stake than arcane procedural details. For more than two years, as recently as May 2012, residents near the landfill have complained of decreasing property values. They also worry that the facility has caused illness in people and pets living nearby.
A final ruling is not expected today. Read the whole story from this week's Scene here.