An Independence man has contacted state officials, concerned about sludge containing chromium being deposited at Courntey Ridge Landfill in Sugar Creek.

William Wilcox has filed a clean water complaint with the Missouri attorney general. Wilcox also contacted the Environmental Protection Agency hot line. The EPA turned the complaint over to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which is now handling the complaint.

An Independence man has contacted state officials, concerned about sludge containing chromium being deposited at Courntey Ridge Landfill in Sugar Creek.
William Wilcox has filed a clean water complaint with the Missouri attorney general. Wilcox also contacted the Environmental Protection Agency hot line. The EPA turned the complaint over to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which is now handling the complaint.

The Missouri Attorney General’s Agricultural and Environmental Division has requested information concerning the issue from the DNR.

Wilcox said he received a tip from a person familiar with the landfill operations about the disposing of the sludge. The tipster knew Wilcox could “get the ball rolling” on contacting state officials about the sludge. Wilcox has previously taken environmental and other issues to the government.

The sludge being disposed at Courtney Ridge, 2001 Missouri 291, is from National Beef Leathers, a St. Joseph, Mo., company. The sludge is waste from the tanning of animal hides, called tannery sludge.

NBL had been shipping the sludge to a landfill in Macon, Mo., but the company wanted to ship to a closer location, according to DNR.

The sludge contains chromium, a known carcinogenic. Chromium can be found in nearby air, soil and water as a byproduct in many manufacturing processes. High levels can cause respiratory and pregnancy complications and cancer.

The EPA and DNR in April 2009 launched an investigation stemming from public concerns about tannery sludge from NBL being used as agricultural fertilizer on northwest Missouri farms. The people in that area claim a disproportionally high number of residents have suffered brain tumors.

Health and environmental officials have concluded that sludge from NBL did not contain enough chromium to cause health problems, according an announcement by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in July 2009.

The latest sampling was done on April 6-7. DNR is analyzing the results, which should be known next week.
A lawsuit on behalf of people who fell ill and died of cancer, allegedly by chromium exposure, has been filed against National Beef.

A spokesman for NBL declined to comment and referred all questions to the landfill.

NBL is legally disposing of the sludge at Courtney Ridge, a facility permitted to handle the substance, said DNR spokesman Judd Slivka. It’s legal to dispose of tannery sludge in a sanitary landfill as it is exempted from federal and state hazardous waste regulation. It’s regulated no differently than any other sanitary waste, Slivka said.

No investigation is necessary, Slivka said.

Courtney Ridge is “probably one of the best places in the state” for the sludge to go, according to Slivka. The site has a double-composite liner that is like two landfill liners instead of one, Slivka said.

“It maybe legal to dump it, but show me the proof of where the liner has been tested and intact and not seeping into the water aquifer,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox is concerned about mining by Lafarge near the landfill. The sludge in the ground, the movement of earth from the blasting, and an underground aquifer near the landfill used for the area’s water supply trouble him.

“This sludge being dumped at a facility that is vibrating over a water aquifer we drink from. That’s my concern,” Wilcox said.

Federal and state regulations require ground water monitoring of sanitary landfills to “ensure the continued protection” of groundwater in the area. There are a large number of different substances, including chromium, that are monitored on a semi-annual basis, Slivka said.

Slivka said DNR is looking into the mining influence of the sludge. Wilcox cited cracking home foundations from alleged Lafarge blasting in the area. “What do you think it would do to a liner?” Wilcox said.