COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — After being closed for over seven months, the Cherokee Industrial Landfill reopened on Tuesday.
The landfill began accepting C&D waste from Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and Sheffield as well as Colbert County on Tuesday, according to State Representative Kerry Underwood.
Underwood outlined to News 19 how the reopening process will go for the landfill.
“The reopening will be in three phases. First (and today), the landfill is accepting C&D waste from the three cities and the county. Our current available space allows for this volume and give our employees time to reinstitute operations and protocols. Individuals may also bring waste for no charge,” said Underwood. “During Phase I, we will continue to finalize the construction of a new cell. Phase II will allow commercial carriers to bring their waste. Phase III, at the time of the new cell completion, will allow for industrial waste receipt. For this, we are required to submit a plan to ADEM for approval prior to acceptance.”
Since March, the landfill has been closed after the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) ordered it to cease and desist following inspections that saw several code violations over multiple months.
Under ADEM code, landfills like this should have a system to properly dispose of leachate, which is a contaminated liquid that forms from water that absorbs hazardous materials and contaminants. The ADEM order shows that inspections found the amount of pooled leachate in collection systems was over maximum depth.
Another inspection on November 2, 2022, found that leachate had pooled in nearby stormwater ditches, which the order says indicated ‘a failure to operate and maintain the facility’ to minimize the release of contaminants required in the facility’s permit.
ADEM inspections also found that there were several weeks that the landfill was not properly covering their solid waste.
Less than a week later, CWI Enterprises, the primary operator of the landfill, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – often called “Reorganization Bankruptcy.”
The Tri-Cities Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWDA) asked a Colbert County circuit court judge to remove CWI as the primary operator of the CIL. A hearing was scheduled for March 8, but was suspended indefinitely after CWI filed for bankruptcy on March 7.
Later that month, the SWDA started cleaning the Cherokee Industrial Landfill after approval from a federal judge. The agency filed an emergency motion for the stay to be lifted on March 9, which was approved on March 13 and SWDA officials confirmed on March 16 that they had resumed operations to clear leachate from the landfill site.
At first, trash was being transported to a Franklin County landfill. However, in May, Sheffield Mayor Steve Stanley confirmed to News 19 that Colbert County would no longer be allowed to use that landfill to hold their trash and will begin taking their waste to Morgan County instead.
At the time, News 19 learned that it would cost $27 per ton to dump waste at the Trinity landfill, which is $2 more than the landfill in Franklin County. Colbert County was originally only paying $10 per ton to dump waste at the Cherokee Industrial Landfill.
Now that the Cherokee Industrial Landfill has reopened, Underwood says the community will benefit greatly.
“The community will benefit immensely by the reacquiring and reopening of the landfill,” said Underwood. “All pickup city and county-wide can resume at full pace because the delivery of such is now much closer and also less expensive. It is a better and more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”
News 19 will continue to track updates to the landfill and it’s pending ADEM approval.