Anderson and Madison County and Agriculture/Farming and Environment and Real Estate & Retail

Residents raise stink over transfer of landfill permit

December 11, 2013

The state’s environmental office has agreed to transfer a landfill permit to the new owner of a Madison County property at the center of a decades-long dispute.

Despite the permit, the new owners, a trio of landfill-related companies owned by the same people, say they have no plans to build a landfill. Neighbors aren’t so sure after more than 30 years of fighting such a project.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, in a Dec. 3 decision, allowed 600 Land Inc. to take over a landfill permit from the property’s previous owners, who spent years in court trying to develop the Mallard Lake Landfill.

The permit covers 13 acres of the 254-acre Mallard Lake property outside of Anderson. Setbacks would make it illegal to use the remaining 241 acres for storing trash, said IDEM spokesman Barry Sneed.

A group of residents, led by the Killbuck Concerned Citizens Association, have been embroiled in a legal dispute since 1979 in an attempt to stop the use of the property as a landfill. The group raised concerns ranging from pollution leaching into the nearby Killbuck Creek to accusations the developers had mob connections.

The fight appeared as if it would die down in September after two brothers from Kalamazoo, Mich., John and Michael Balkema, bought the Mallard Lake property for about $1.1 million.

The brothers own three companies: 600 Land, which owns landfills, waste transfer stations and permits; Bex Farms Inc., which owns “buffer land” around landfills and transfer stations, plus other investment properties; and Best Way Disposal, which collects and hauls trash and recycling.

Despite the companies’ close ties to waste and landfills, Best Way, which has an office in Anderson, publicly stated in September that Mallard Lake would not become a landfill.

“Then why would they need a landfill permit?” Bill Kutschera, head of the Killbuck Concerned Citizens Association, repeated throughout an interview with IBJ.

The new owners transferred the permit to 600 Land “to control what happens with the landfill permit,” Andy Drummond, a facility manager for Best Way, wrote in an email.

“Transferring the permit is a logical step,” he said.

Drummond, who would only answer questions through email, would not answer questions about how owning the permit benefits the company, given that it says it won’t develop a landfill.

The companies maintain they plan to rent the Mallard Lake land out for farming purposes. One farmer rents the land today, Drummond said, and “we are evaluating other interested parties.”

None of the companies have pursued further legal steps with IDEM that would show their interest in building a landfill, said IDEM’s Sneed.

“It’s a pretty rigorous process,” he said.

Among the regulations, the owners would need certain amounts of clay and drainage facilities, he added. Most landfills range between 200 and 300 acres because they need to be large enough to justify the upfront costs, he said.

Regardless of what happens to Mallard Lake, Killbuck Concerned Citizens still struggles to believe its feud is over.

The group spoke with its attorney about the permit transfer, Kutschera said, but it does not see any way to legally challenge the decision. The group does “reserve the right” to do so in the future, though, he added.

“We’re not folding up our tent and going home,” he said.

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