COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. — When rain falls on the industrial landfill near Cherokee, the water becomes toxic as it flows through the contents inside. The substance created is known as leachate, and it requires proper disposal.
In September, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management notified the Tri-Cities Solid Waste Disposal Authority that leachate was not being disposed of properly.
Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry Underwood is head of the authority, which owns the CWI Landfill in the Barton community near Cherokee, however, through a contract, it is operated and managed by Steve Witmer’s CWI Enterprises.
“It’s a merger of public-private entities, and that’s usually good connection because you get the benefit of the efficiency from the private sector with the overall good of the community from the public sector, so it’s a good combination,” Underwood said about the partnership.
After receiving the notice from ADEM, the authority forwarded it to Witmer.
“He has since then fixed the problem,” Underwood explained. “He’s got the pumps going again; he’s hauling the leachate and getting it out. It was simply a management issue that ADEM heard about and went and corrected, so for us, as long as it’s being hauled out and taken care of, we’re good.”
Another issue ADEM addressed in the order is that the landfill wasn’t applying a soil covering as frequently as intended, but Underwood said that has also been resolved.
“I think there was maybe someone in the community complained about the odor from the landfill and so ADEM said, ‘look, you have to cover at this frequency on these time frames,’ and he said he would yield to that and make sure that’s done,” Underwood continued.
Underwood said the authority isn’t updated on a daily basis on what happens at the landfill but when ADEM sends out an order like this, the authority maintains communication with CWI to see that the issues are resolved.
The Tri-Cities Solid Waste Disposal Authority purchased the Cherokee Industrial Landfill in 2020 as the original industrial landfill on Highway 43 in Tuscumbia was nearing capacity.