More than 100 people came to a community meeting to voice their opposition to a solid waste transfer station in the Homesteads Community. By the end of the meeting more than 300 signatures were listed on a petition against the transfer station. The state is expected to make a decision over the permit within the next few weeks.

At least a few hundred people came to the Homestead Elementary School gymnasium Thursday night to raise a stink about a pending solid waste transfer station being located in their community. By the end of the meeting more than 300 people had signed a petition voicing their opposition to the transfer station.

"We are not here to talk about any specific person. We are not here to fight with anyone or argue. If there are any arguments you will be asked to leave ... We just want to pass out some information to everyone and make everyone aware of what's going on ... transfer stations are needed and do have a purpose, not in a historic community — not in our neighborhood," said Sue Mackie, Cumberland Homesteads resident and one of the organizers of the meeting.

Paul Pennington has owned and operated Tennessee Recycling and Sanitation Service at 1550 Hwy. 68 for more than 10 years. Currently, the business handles approximately 200 tons of garbage per day from Cumberland County residences, businesses and some large commercial businesses and industries. The trucks pick up the trash and transport it to the Cumberland County landfill or the Rhea County landfill.

Pennington has applied for a Solid Waste Permit by Rule Notification from the state of Tennessee, which sparked an uproar in the historic community. The issue has so many people disturbed that the Cumberland County Commission even drafted a resolution voicing opposition to the state permitting the transfer station after 3rd District commissioners received complaints.

As of press time the county was scheduled to vote on the resolution Monday night during the commission's monthly meeting.

Several residents voiced concerns about the state passing the permit and the transfer station being located in their community. Concerns mentioned included bad odors, environmental pollution, burning of trash and chemicals and rubber, leakage of waste runoff into streams, and decreasing property values.

One resident who spoke, Linda Dewey, said a transfer station is a vague description and is not necessarily a facility where trash is sorted out and taken away by vehicles daily.

"It's held until it's moved to another solid waste facility ... Ken Shepherd at Cookeville regional office is the engineer in charge of this project. I asked him about the rules about how long this garbage could just languish there and he told me in the real world it should be moved quickly, but it could stay there no more than one year. And I think we need to know these things. There's no government ruling that says it can only stay a month or two months, just not longer than one year. And no public notices are required when a request for permit modification can be made. This scares me because it means a transfer station could be put in and then in a couple of months a permit for a processing plant could be put in and anything else he wants on that site with no public notification. That kind of scares me ... "

Dewey said the municipal waste permit Pennington applied for could be changed without notice to allow medical waste. She said she got the information about not having to notify the public about a change in handling the waste from the Tennessee government Web site of the state environmental permits handbook.

Dewey said that Barry Atnip in the Cookeville Regional office of the state told her that the facility would smell.

"It might depend on which way the wind blows that day and that there was no way around it. Garbage is gabage," Dewey said. "We don't want it in our neighborhood."

She also had information on flyers to handout to those attending for the contact numbers of Ken Shepard, Department of Conservation engineer, and Mike Apple, division director with TDEC.

Both 3rd District County Commission representatives Lynn Tollett and Johnny Presley attended the meeting as well.

Cumberland County currently operates 18 convenience centers in the county. The convenience centers are operated by the county and trash is taken daily to the landfill. There are currently two businesses permitted for transfer stations in Cumberland County, Cumberland Waste Disposal and Fay. CWD operates a transfer station in Crossville on Stevens St.

Speaking about the resolution at the meeting, 3rd District Commissioner Lynn Tollett said, "I gurantee it's going to pass without any problem. We've worked on that and got it taken care of. Like Sue said, it's a team effort ... you don't fool with Homestead ... What Sue's saying, everybody's got to stick together, stay calm, sign, make the necessary phone calls and I think it'll work 'cause - opposition - I don't see how anybody can go over this."

Pennington was asked if he wanted to make any comments at the meeting, but said he did not want to. Later, Pennington said he was concerned and didn't want to cause an argument or fight at the meeting.

"A lot of the information they gave wasn't correct," Pennington said the next day. "For one thing, I can't just hold that garbage for up to a year. This would have to be taken within 48 hours."

Pennington also said the facility would be enclosed and properly ventilated and wouldn't cause a large amount of odor.

He said his reason for the permit request is to build an 80-foot by 100-foot building on his property to be able to transfer the garbage he picks up into larger containers and then haul it to the landfill rather then having to keep making more trips with smaller loads in his smaller trucks. The building would be located approximately 2,000 feet off Hwy. 68. The addition would be enclosed and on a concrete slab where no garbage would touch the ground.

"My trucks and property is some of the cleanest in the state. The inspectors who have come out here have said this property is some of the cleanest they've seen. I'm always in compliance and I'm not trying to hide anything," Pennington said.

"I don't want to cause heartache or anything like that for Homestead. I don't have anything against anybody, but I have to think about all of my customers and my future. I have over $800,000 invested in equipment here. And I have some very big customer accounts. I can't just up and say 'that's it, we're going to quit.'"

Pennington is concerned about the Cumberland County landfill closing in the near future and said he has to think about the future of his business and decided the transfer station would be the best way to go.

"This isn't about bringing more garbage in here, it's about maintaining my customers I have in a more feasible way," Pennington said.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has Pennington's application for review and is expected to make a decision over the permit within the next two to three weeks.

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