Cooper Silent on Bordeaux Landfill Expansion

On a hill overlooking Ashland City Highway, community leaders spoke against expanding the landfill October 29. A nonstop parade of dump trucks rumbled past them during their press conference.

By Peter White

NASHVILLE, TN — Elected officials wrote Mayor John Cooper earlier this month asking him to tell Waste Management the city would take legal action if they tried to expand the Bordeaux landfill again. He’s mulling it over.

Last week, At-Large Councilwoman Sharon Hurt received a brief reply from Cooper’s Director of Legislative affairs, Mike Jameson. 

Jameson told Hurt that the Mayor has heard from both sides and had been in contact with District 1 Councilman Jonathan Hall,

District 1 Councilman Jonathan Hall met twice with city officials recently. He is hoping to hear that Metro will fight the expansion of the Bordeaux landfill.

who represents Bordeaux. Jameson said they would get back to him soon.

The letter read in part:  “As you know, the expansion of solid waste facilities is heavily regulated under state law, and those state regulations will dictate Metro’s options – including application of the Jackson Law. The Metro Legal Department is devoting substantial time and resources to determining the legal course available to the Council and to the Mayor. “

City Hall does not seem all that anxious to fight against the dump expansion. Bordeaux residents are quite used to city leaders putting dumps and industrial plants in their neighborhoods and they are tired of it. 

“We’ve been dealing with this for more than forty years and we have serious issues with the expansion,” said Rep Vincent Dixie. 

“This is not a coincidence that historically polluting facilities, whether it’s air quality that is polluted or whether it’s aesthetics that are polluted, are located in African American communities. “ said Rev. Judy Cummings.

Dan Lane served on the Solid Waste Regional Board for 17 years.  Lane remembers when Waste Management wanted to expand the dump in 2004. The board approves the siting of landfills and any expansions. The Board denied the company’s application for an expansion.

But Waste Management appealed the decision in court and won. “Metro did not have good representation to have a good fight in the court system,” Lane said.

So Waste Management got a permit to keep operating. At that time, the company predicted the Bordeaux site would reach full capacity in 2018. “Here it is 2020, and now they’re asking for another 12 years,” Lane said. 

Former District 1 Councilman Nick Leonardo said Metro has the Jackson Law on its side. In 2017, Leonardo wrote the Metro ordinance that adopted the Jackson Law and Metro Council passed it. It gives local jurisdictions the right to accept or reject landfills irrespective of permits issued by the Tennessean Department of Environment and Conservation. 

“Nothing else will stop this other than the Jackson Law,” said Leonardo. He was wearing a T-shirt that read “Stop Dumping on us. Stop dumping on Bordeaux.” 

“This is an important issue in the black community. Let’s let a judge decide,” he said.

Leonardo said it’s important to have a judge validate the Jackson Law because if Metro doesn’t defend it, then it could be argued later that the city forfeited its right to object in any future landfill case.

“It doesn’t mean the dump will not expand.  It just means that you have to come through Metro. They can still expand if the Council votes for it,” Leonardo said. 

On Ashland City Highway, a constant parade of dump trucks rumbled past on their way to the landfill. Former competitors for district council seats set aside their rivalries to attend the press conference last week.  Rev. Judy Cummings gave a fiery speech.

“We know as residents in this community that we are breathing foul rotten air as evidenced by the vultures that are swirling above

“This leads to further distrust in a system which we already know is designed to further marginalize communities of color. We believe that is exactly what is happening here and it is immoral,” said Rev. Judy Cummings.

this dump,” Cummings said.  

She cited a California study that tied environmental injustice to a lack of political power. Cummings called the long history of dumping things in Bordeaux Metro didn’t want “immoral”. And she said it’s time for a change. 

“We are gathered here today to call upon the mayor and other regulatory agencies for a commitment to eradicate environmental injustice in Bordeaux, North Nashville, (and) to seek alternative solutions for construction material and debris, none of which this community has benefited from. Not one new building or any governmental resources have been invested in this community,” Cummings said.

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