On September 20, 2021, the City of Murfreesboro launched a website for the public to report odors or gas believed to be coming from the Middle Point Landfill (“MPL”). The site, http://murfreesborotn.report/, contains a simple complaint form. A Shortcut link can be found on the City’s main website and will also be promoted through social media.
BFI, which owns and operates the landfill, assured the City and other officials that the odor problems would be resolved by the end of July 2021. These odors do not appear to have been eliminated as promised. Based on recently discovered information, it appears that there are ongoing chemical reactions in the landfill that continue to generate unusually high temperatures and gasses that are not typically emitted from landfills.
The form is short and easy to use. The purpose is to help the City determine whether the odors are ongoing, changing, or gone altogether. The form goes directly to the City. Any person wishing to provide confidential, additional information can indicate that on the form along with a preferred method for follow-up contact. The site also alerts the public that any emergency odor, gas, or illness situation should be directed to 911 or the Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency.
In recent years, MPL has been the subject of hundreds of odor complaints from members of the community. Most of those complaints, however, have been directed to BFI or to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”). The City reviewed information from both systems but found a variety of troubling information gaps. Additionally, when TDEC receives a complaint, it has consistently stated in response that is has “no jurisdiction” over odors. Mayor Shane McFarland: “TDEC has statewide obligations and limited resources, we understand that. The City, however, has a specific local issue to address, and we need a more targeted approach.”
By launching the odor-reporting website, the City hopes to reduce confusion and improve the reporting process by collecting information directly from the public.
Over the last two-plus years, BFI and TDEC have repeatedly pointed to City infrastructure as the source of odors. In response, the City set up a simplified air monitoring plan for one type of gas: hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is a foul-smelling gas common to both sewers and landfills. The City’s monitoring program, however, revealed that high levels of hydrogen sulfide were not coming from the City’s sewer system. Rather, the sensors located near the landfill repeatedly detected elevated hydrogen sulfide levels near the landfill. The timing of these elevated readings was consistent with the wind direction coming off the landfill. Equally important, though, is that these sensors are located in places where there are no City sewer facilities nearby.