Elaine and Syd Gilman spent time at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek last week, out-of-state visitors seeking a safe place to ride their bicycles. At one point they rode parallel with Florida’s Turnpike, within view of Monarch Landfill.
The couple did not detect any odors on their outing. “We love this park,” Syd said.
The Gilmans may have noticed the garbage smell had they visited Tradewinds Park last year, when Waste Management, which owns Monarch Landfill, deposited about 43,750 tons of household and commercial waste at the landfill per month. They may have smelled some of the 18,000 tons of wastewater sludge landfilled there last year.
At a Coconut Creek City Commission meeting last week, Mayor Becky Tooley explained how monitoring the landfill has been a major issue for her since the 1990s, when she served on the city’s environmental board.
“I spend a lot of time at Sabal Pines Park, watching the kids, and I really hate it when they are out there and you can smell that landfill,” Tooley said. “It’s not good for them, and it’s not good for the residents around the area.”
After public statements and discussion by officials, the City Commission voted to approve a settlement with Waste Management that limits the amount of household and commercial waste, and the amount of wastewater sludge deposited by the company at the landfill.
The maximum amount of household and commercial waste permitted to be landfilled under the agreement will be 175,000 tons per year, or 14,583 tons per month.
The maximum amount of wastewater sludge landfilled will be 5,000 tons per year.
The settlement had been months in the making and stemmed from reported violations of an agreement signed between Waste Management and Coconut Creek in 2010 which took effect in 2013.
“The settlement agreement called for the burning of all processable waste that would otherwise be landfilled in Monarch Hill, as long as there was capacity in both the North and South Waste Energy Plants,” said Mary Blasi, city manager, in an interview last week.
Late last year, when several county waste-to-energy plants were sold and Waste Management indicated to the county that it wanted to shut down the North Plant, Coconut Creek officials discovered a link to the increasing tonnage of waste landfilled and the stronger odors.
“Waste Management was basically taking garbage out of the North Plant and putting it into the landfill to show the county they did not have enough capacity, to fool them,” Blasi said.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection reports back up Blasi’s statement, with the amount of waste processed at the North Plant falling and the amount of waste landfilled at Monarch growing proportionally in 2014.
Furthermore, the closing of the North Plant’s 800,000-ton capacity and Waste Management’s contracts with several South Florida cities would have necessitated the landfilling of 800,000 tons of garbage.
The settlement signed last week allows for the North Plant’s closure but limits the amount of trash to be landfilled, Blasi said.
During public comment at the commission meeting, former mayor Lisa Aronson said she remains skeptical about Waste Management following through on the settlement. After the commission voted to approve it, she asked why residents should believe Waste Management would honor it if the company didn’t honor the agreement in 2013.
“There are audit capabilities,” Blasi said. “That’s really big to go in there. We didn’t have that in our original agreement.”
Under the agreement, Waste Management is to provide payment of $0.10 per ton of limited waste deposited in the landfill for the purposes of the city hiring an auditor to verify the amount of garbage accepted at the landfill.
The language in the agreement approved last week also is stronger legally than the one signed in 2010, Blasi said, with words clearly defined and more specificity.
Tooley thanked city staff for working tirelessly on the settlement. County Commissioner Mark Bogen was thanked for his support. Both Blasi and Terrill Pyburn, city attorney, also were recognized several times for their work.
“The fight is not over yet,” Blasi said.
Coconut Creek will be requesting that Broward County acknowledge and ratify the city’s agreement with Waste Management at the next meeting of the Broward County Commission, which is tentatively scheduled for April 28.
“This gives the agreement a bit more strength,” Blasi said, “ensuring any agreement Waste Management makes with the county regarding solid waste disposal would not conflict with it.”
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