Some oil landfill neighbors say lab tests won't change their minds - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Some oil landfill neighbors say lab tests won't change their minds

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County supervisors may get the answers about whether it's safe for oil waste to go into a local landfill as soon as Monday afternoon. Supervisor Windy Swetman says a Hattiesburg lab is running the tests using samples taken directly from Waste Management's Pecan Grove Landfill on Firetower Road. However, some residents say they don't want oil in their neighborhood no matter what the tests say.

Right now, oil that washes up along the Mississippi Coast goes to the Pecan Grove landfill. Some people living in the area say they don't like not having a say in the matter.

"It was a surprise when we found out it was going to the landfill before we found out that they were possibly going to put it in the landfill," said Deborah Mauffray, Harrison County resident. "We had no idea."

Frank Hurd also lives in the area. "It's something that's adding insult to injury. BP gave us the spill, and now we've got to pay for it in a different way."

Harrison County supervisors are awaiting tests to show if the oil being taken to the landfill is toxic. Even if the tests showed the tar balls and mouse are safe, Supervisor Windy Swetman says he'd still be against it.

"I oppose it because of the public, especially the citizens that live in and around that area," Swetman said. "If all of these tests say they're non-hazardous, I don't think the citizens will be convinced of that. For their peace of mind, I hope Waste Management and BP would consider taking it to another landfill."

Some homeowners  already say they put no faith in results from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality that landfill oil is not a public health threat. They worry about what will happen down the road.

"I think there are scientists who are probably thinking that they're doing the right thing," said Mauffray. "We don't know what years of that stuff is going to be going into the landfill, seeping down into the ground. Then what's going to happen? I don't think they know."

"I don't feel better," said Hurd. "I think that it should not be put here at all and it's a risk that we really should not be forced to take. The main effect is getting into our water supply since we're all on well systems out here and that will take years to develop. We're afraid all the BP money will be long gone we find out about it."

MDEQ says the hazardous components in the oil are stripped away by the natural weathering in the weeks or months it takes for the oil to travel from the Deepwater Horizon well site to Mississippi.

Gulfport may be about to speak out against dumping BP waste at Pecan Grove. This week the city council is to consider a resolution opposing the use of the landfill for oil waste. The resolution claims that landfills eventually fail and leak into the ground and surface water.

Gulfport Spokesperson Ryan LaFontaine said, "There are concerns about how the material might effect the environment and the people who live in that area, and the measure on Tuesday's agenda is to support Harrison County's opposition to the BP landfill site.

However, at least one Gulfport council member says he can't support the resolution as it is currently written.

R. Lee Flowers of Ward Six said, "While I don't like it, the fact we're putting oil in there. It's nothing worse than what I would put in my garbage can, you would put in your garbage can, someone else would put in their garbage can from household chemicals product bottles to used car oil bottles and the like."

Flowers says he does support the part of the resolution that asks BP to look for alternative ways to dispose of the oil.

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