Landfills in bidding war for flood trash

Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 11:45pm
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The water is gone. The armies of volunteers have retreated.

It’s OK to take showers again. The CMA Music Festival happened as planned, bringing the tourists, the incumbent traffic and the dollars. Those who can are rebuilding. Rain no longer inspires widespread shudders of fear as in the days after the Great Flood.

If there’s one remaining, well, remainder from the flood, it’s the trash. There’s lots of it.

Drive through Bellevue’s River Plantation or the devastated subdivisions on Pennington Bend. The detritus is still being pulled from basements and ground floors. Piles of ruined drywall, soaked fiberglass and waterlogged furniture still rest on curbs. Once marble-white appliances, now streaked with sharp brown lines marking how high the water rose, have been tossed to the street.

And that’s just residential waste. Businesses and industries have their own special trash problems — often hazardous materials never meant to sit in the sun and wait for pickup.

Metro Public Works announced last week the three trash staging areas on Pulley Road, at MetroCenter and at Edwin Warner Park were ready to be shut down — after processing more than 70,000 tons of trash. As a point of comparison, Nashville produces 17,250 tons of trash in an average, non-flood month.

Metro contracted with two Alabama companies — Storm Reconstruction Services and DRC Inc. — to provide trucks, crews and equipment to supplement Public Works staff in picking up and processing the garbage.

But where to put it once it’s picked up?

Construction and demolition debris is being taken to two landfills owned by Southern Services Inc., while white goods and appliances are being taken to waste-management companies such as PSC, after coolant has been removed.

Brush is going to Red River Ranch, a mulch contractor at the Bordeaux Mulch Facility, and anything that doesn’t fit one of those categories ends up at BFI’s landfill in Murfreesboro.

Holes in the ground

“Mount Murfreesboro,” a giant landfill near Rutherford County’s Walter Hill community, is the landfill of choice for most municipalities in this area, long the destination of “normal” trash.

Same goes for Red River handling brush. PSC and similar companies frequently take care of metal waste for Metro.

But the construction and demolition trash was the unknown variable.

Under normal circumstances, contractors are responsible for dumping their own construction waste. Building permits include the standard boilerplate “all construction and demolition waste generated by any and all activities governed by this permit shall be disposed of in an approved landfill.”

Now that Nashville is returning to normalcy, that’s the case once again.

The flood, though, left so much construction debris, it became Metro’s responsibility in the weeks after to get the drywall and fiberglass off the curbs.

Veronica Frazier, head of the Beautification and Environment Commission, said Southern Services was chosen through an emergency bid process — as were the out-of-town haulers and the providers of other services that were necessary in a postdiluvian Nashville.

But Southern Services wasn’t actually the lowest bidder in this ramped-up game.

Two Knoxville-area landfills — Riverside and Poplar View — submitted the lowest bids, wherein Metro would pay $4 per cubic yard, or roughly $16 per ton, for construction debris. Southern Services submitted a $7 per cubic yard bid. Two other bidders — based in Memphis and Cleveland, Tenn. — submitted much higher proposals.

To take advantage of the lower prices offered by the Knoxville pair, though, Metro was going to have haul the trash 180 miles east.

That proved to be cost-ineffective, Jeff Gossage, Metro’s purchasing agent, said.

Nevertheless, the city actually awarded the contract to all three bidders and opted to use Southern Services until space ran out there.

“We didn’t know how much trash we’d have. We’d have been in a squeeze if there was too much for their capacity,” he said. “You’ve got to be out in front.”

As it stands, though, the home team had plenty of space.

And Southern Services will make a pretty penny. Until the final bills come in, there’s no good way to tell how much of the 275,000 cubic yards of flood trash was C&D-related. But even if just a third of it is, Southern Services stands to make more than $600,000 — all because it’s close by.

It proves that old real estate adage — “Location, location, location” — applies to holes in the ground as well as million-dollar mansions.