Kansas regulators issue cease and desist to landfill beset by complaints of fires, stench
(Kansas Reflector) - Kansas environmental regulators instructed a Leavenworth County landfill already under scrutiny for fires and environmental violations to stop accepting waste until further notice.
The landfill’s operator, Shawn Britz, said the facility, which accepts construction and demolition waste, voluntarily closed to new drop-offs two weeks ago to give its workers a break.
But in a cease and desist letter, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment detailed a series of attempts to bring the facility, owned by Flat Land Excavating, into compliance before shutting it down for permit violations.
“Such violations pose a threat to public health and the environment,” the letter says, because the facility has accepted too much waste. It says the structure of the landfill could be compromised.
The state says that “may result in releases to the environment that would contaminate air, soil and water resources impactful to human health.
The state had previously said it would only order a facility to close “if all other options to correct violations have been ineffective or, in extreme circumstances, when an imminent threat to public health or the environment can be proved.”
The order comes after a fire and a series of violations by the landfill inspired outrage among some neighbors of the landfill in Easton, a small town west of Leavenworth. They said the smell from the landfill was “unbelievable” and complained repeatedly to the state that the facility was forming a massive waste heap before inspectors finally visited the site.
Britz has disputed many of the allegations made against him by neighbors, saying they primarily come from one family and Leavenworth County commissioners attempting to sabotage him.
Of the cease and desist letter from the state, Britz said, “Whatever the issue is, we’re going to fix it and move forward.”
Zack Pistora, a lobbyist for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental nonprofit, said he was “glad to see KDHE enforcing the rules and responding to the community’s long-standing concerns.”
“The neighbors and area residents have long complained about this site for a variety of reasons,” Pistora said. “Now it seems like they may get a little relief, which is good, and we can keep the area and the ecosystems preserved.”
According to the letter, Britz’s landfill contains quadruple the volume of waste it’s allowed. The maximum disposal capacity for the landfill, the letter says, is 430,000 cubic yards. The state says information supplied by the landfill’s engineering consultant shows the facility has waste taking up more than 1.7 million cubic yards.
The state first started evaluating the mass of waste following a November inspection. It directed Flat Land to submit a report evaluating whether the facility was in compliance with approved design standards around slopes of the waste heap, elevation and limits of total waste.
A consultant for the facility concluded the waste mass was out of compliance. In some areas, it was 38 feet too tall. KDHE issued a violation.
KDHE then instructed Flat Land to submit a proposal to address the deficiencies. But the ensuing filing didn’t include some required information, which KDHE asked the facility to provide.
Flat Land’s consultant then informed the state of the size of its waste disposal area, which the state found exceeded the limits in the facility’s permit.
The state ordered the facility to accept no waste unless it applies for and is granted a permit change to increase the allowable capacity of the site. If it doesn’t apply for the change within six months, KDHE ordered that Flat Land submit a plan to close the facility.
Asked whether he had a timeframe for when he expected to resolve the issues outlined by KDHE, Britz said he was waiting on engineering information.
Britz said he wishes residents would call him rather than complaining to others, including county commissioners.
“If there’s an issue, I’ve never had a problem trying to fix it,” he said.