In the community known for its residents' battle against the Hollywood Dump in the early '80s, Frayser is once again gearing up for a fight with the developers of a new landfill.
Their efforts may be too little too late, however. The Memphis Wrecking Company's application to open their landfill at 2948 Thomas to public use has already been approved by the Memphis City Council and granted tentative approval by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
The Memphis Wrecking Company was granted a permit to open a private construction debris landfill in 2009. In November 2010, the council approved the company's request to have the private landfill opened for public use.
Carol and Steve Williamson, owners of the Memphis Wrecking
Company, say the move represents a negligible change in the operation of the landfill.
"It's still the same types of materials going in — just construction materials, no hazardous waste, no garbage," Steve said. "We pay $3,000 a year to have the state inspect us. We're not going to do anything to jeopardize our license. We've followed the regulations to the letter."
But at a public hearing at the Cunningham Community Center in Frayser last week, residents were not encouraged.
"Once again, Frayser's getting a raw deal," said Bobby Holman, who's lived in Frayser for 16 years.
"Who will be monitoring the daily activity? How will we know that [these other construction companies] are bringing in what they say they are?" asked Sierra Club environmental justice coordinator Rita Harris, concerned about the possibility of asbestos and lead paint seeping into groundwater.
"There are more trucks coming in from different contractors," said Scott Banbury, conservation chair of the Sierra Club. "I'm not sure they can ensure that there aren't hazardous materials coming in."
Ralph Smith, president of local environmental engineering company ETI, countered that the landfill has been in operation since 2009, and there have been several inspections with no deficiencies on the part of Memphis Wrecking Company.
Still, residents were unhappy with the process that permitted the landfill. Citing what they deem as a long tradition of leaving local stakeholders out of the equation, residents pointed to the location of the public hearing: a community center seven miles from the landfill and the affected neighborhood.
"I was not notified in 2007," said state representative Barbara Cooper. "I was only notified by a constituent about this expansion. I didn't even know there was a landfill."
Philip Davis, hearing officer for TDEC, responded that due diligence had been carried out. He said notices of the permitting decision and the public hearing were published in local newspapers and on the department's website.
Smith added that a public notice had been posted on the Memphis Wrecking Company's property, and direct mailings were sent to all property owners within 500 feet of the landfill.
Many residents insisted they never received the notices and pointed out that 500 feet from the landfill site is not a large enough range for notification.
"It's just a big eyesore sitting there," said resident Melinda Garner. "I hear Cordova boycotted a Walmart. Give me Walmart. They can have our dump."