Shawnee planning commission recommends renewing landfill operations special use permit

A renewal of the landfill operations special use permit for Deffenbaugh Industries, a subsidiary of Waste Management, is now up for Shawnee council review.

As reports of odor complaints on the landfill in western Shawnee continue to decrease, the city planning commission has recommended renewing the operator’s special use permit.

A recent uptick in complaints is mainly caused by warm weather, westerly winds and a collection cell in the landfill that has nearly reached capacity, according to a recent city staff report. Most odor complaints come from the Lake Quivira area because it’s nearest to the collection cell currently in use. But in about a year and a half, that cell will have reached capacity, and dump trucks will begin using a new collection cell a quarter of a mile away from Lake Quivira.

The Shawnee planning commission in its Monday meeting recommended 10-0 for the city council to approve the special use permit for Deffenbaugh Industries, a subsidiary of Waste Management, to continue for the next 18 months operations of the landfill, located at the southwest corner of Holliday Drive and Interstate 435. Bruce Bienhoff was absent.

One Lake Quivira resident, Barb Johnson, who has lived on the west side of the lake for the past 25 years and has often complained about the odors, said the problem is still apparent but getting better.

“Frankly, we get tired of calling,” Johnson said, adding that she thinks the percentage in reduction of complaint reports, 60 percent, is not “a real accurate number.” “I think I’m not the only person, so I think those percentages may not be really actually that true, or not as true as you think.”

Johnson said she wanted to understand if Shawnee had any policies that helped or hindered Waste Management from handling the odor issue.

Allmon said he thinks Waste Management is doing a better job now than five years ago of tracking odors and working to minimize them. Johnson agreed.

“I do think they’ve done a better job,” she said. “I’m just concerned about it and wanted to see if you had any answers for me.”

Waste management addresses attempts to control odor

Mike Hey, senior district manager for Waste Management, said Waste Management is working to minimize the odor by shrinking the collection cell’s surface size to less than two acres. Hours for landfill operations are also reduced, and the company has invested in a new compost grinder to hasten yard waste processing and reduce exposure time.

Before the vote, Allmon corrected an error on the extension of the special use permit to instead cover a period of 18 months instead of 15 as previously indicated. He said he had been accounting for a delay in the process during which stakeholders recently met with the Lake Quivira city council to discuss the odor complaints.

If approved by council, Waste Management will be granted the 18-month special use permit, which will be up for review again in May 2020.

Some planning commission members asked Waste Management to address potholes and other poor road conditions near the landfill that are caused by heavy trucks constantly passing through.

The planning commission also raised concerns that companies in China are rejecting recyclables, which end up in the landfill anyway. Hey said new rules require less than 1 percent of recyclables to be “contaminated,” so Waste Management is working to minimize the problem through educating the public on what is recyclable.

Recycling is expensive, so the company is also investing in new technologies that can more efficiently separate recyclables, which are often recycled in one bin, Hey added.

“Look to the future; technology will get better and possibly help us out in this endeavor as well,” Hey said. “It’s been a good year for us, and we’re just going to keep on working hard and keep continuing to get better.”