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Middle Point still smells: Dozens of complaints continue to be reported about the landfill

The Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro) logo The Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro) 10/24/2020 Nancy DeGennaro, Murfreesboro Daily News Journal

In the past week, more than 60 reports of potential off-site odor emanating from the Middle Point Landfill in Murfreesboro have been submitted to the facility. 

“We appreciate the community’s staying informed and involved and continuing to submit detailed odor reports to our team,” said Jeremy Jernigan, general manager of Middle Point Landfill, which is operated by Republic Services. “These reports have really helped our team identify sources of on-site odor and other potential off-site sources, such as agricultural odors, contributing to the problem.”

Concentrated odor pockets have plagued Rutherford County in recent months, from as far south as Church Street up to north Murfreesboro and even Smyrna.

Related: Why does the air smell so bad in Murfreesboro now?

The investigation team from the landfill was unable to look into 24 of those reports, either due to lack of time frame or not enough specific information was given, a press release from the company said.

Of reports that were inspected by the on-site team, 10 were potentially attributable to on-site operations and 26 were believed to be attributed to non-landfill sources. Specifically, 14 reports were believed to be potentially related to recent fertilization and agricultural operations in the area.

map: A map of reports from citizens regarding odors from Middle Point Landfill in Murfreesboro. © Submitted A map of reports from citizens regarding odors from Middle Point Landfill in Murfreesboro.

It's not the city's fault

In September, officials from Murfreesboro Water Resources Department also did their own investigation on the source of the smell and released findings.

“MWRD staff is committed to determine whether the sewer system is part of the problem,"  said Water Resources Director Darren Gore in a press release sent from the city of Murfreesboro on Sept. 28.

There was a concern the odors — which were strongest in the North Murfreesboro area — in early September were originating from manholes or pump stations along Compton Road.  

Related: Murfreesboro officials monitor hydrogen sulfide odor after sewer smell complaints

“The city has been conducting hydrogen sulfide (H2S) testing at manholes and pump stations in North Murfreesboro along Compton Road to measure H2S levels and determine whether the unusually high odor originated from the city sewer system,” Gore said.

In response to complaints, the city conducted hydrogen sulfide testing at manholes beginning in early September and pump stations beginning Sept. 22 to monitor and record levels for any spikes. The city continues to monitor gas levels in the Compton Road area.

“No appreciable hydrogen sulfide levels have been measured at any of the city locations," Gore said.

In 2018, the Rutherford County Commission rejected allowing the landfill owners to conduct testing to determine whether expansion was possible of the 288 acres off East Jefferson Pike by the Stones River in the Walter Hill community. 

Related: Middle Point Landfill expansion plans killed by Rutherford County Commission

'Stop the Stink': Smell still an issue

The private 400-acre Middle Point Landfill will close in eight to 12 years instead of expanding on adjacent public land, the commission decided.

Over the years the landfill has garnered numerous complaints about the smell.

The Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment’s “Stop the Stink” campaign has led a grassroots initiative for proper regulation of the landfill and sustainable waste disposal alternatives.

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Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron has led the charge for the county to look at pursuing composting and recycling operations to replace burying trash at the private Middle Point Landfill.

"My goal is to is make Rutherford County become the first zero-waste county in the state of Tennessee," Ketron told The Daily News Journal in March 2019.

Related: Ketron: Stop burying trash in Rutherford by building composting and recycling centers

In the interim, Republic Services continues to field queries and reports from the community regarding Middle Point. Steady reporting from the community via the Middle Point website that has helped identify clusters of odor reports, the press release stated.

In a press release sent in September, Jernigan noted that "measures are already underway and include expanding onsite odor misting and control capabilities, surging-in expert technicians for comprehensive site systems checks and involving third-party technical consultants to perform independent offsite odor inspections."

Middle Point is also continuing to collect data and map reports to establish reporting clusters to determine the source or sources of odor as quickly as possible.

a tree covered in snow: A cherry scented mist is pumped into the air at the Middle Point Landfill, in Rutherford County, to lessen the smell of the landfill. © Helen Comer / DNJ A cherry scented mist is pumped into the air at the Middle Point Landfill, in Rutherford County, to lessen the smell of the landfill.

Republic Services urges the community to continue sharing as much information on specific odor reports in as close to real time as possible with the landfill team via the Middle Point website at middlepointlandfill.com. The more data the team has for investigations helps pinpoint issues. 

Here's what the team asks residents to report:

  • Location (specific address, cross streets or landmark) where odor is detected
  • Time of day when odor is detected
  • Weather or wind conditions at the time
  • Identifying any other potential sources or infrastructure in the vicinity
  • Description of the type of odor detected (sewer, trash, gas or other)
  • Potency of the odor detected — from 1, which is barely detectable, to 5, which is high odor concentration

Reach reporter Nancy DeGennaro at degennaro@dnj.com and follow her on Twitter @NanDeGennaro.  

This article originally appeared on Murfreesboro Daily News Journal: Middle Point still smells: Dozens of complaints continue to be reported about the landfill

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