Tontitown landfill expansion should stand, judge rules, because kept collecting fee

Final decision to go before state commission Dec. 1

Houses are seen on Arbor Acres Road beside the Eco-Vista Landfill in Tontitown on June 25, 2023.
(File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)
Houses are seen on Arbor Acres Road beside the Eco-Vista Landfill in Tontitown on June 25, 2023. (File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)

TONTITOWN — The Eco-Vista landfill should be allowed to continue its plans to expand despite objections from neighboring Tontitown, an administrative law judge ruled Tuesday.

A final decision on the dispute between the city and the landfill’s operators will go to the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission on Dec. 1, according to a court order released Tuesday.

The Tontitown City Council’s 2017 decision approving expansion of the landfill for construction materials stands despite the city’s later attempts to revoke it, the judge said in his order.

Getting the host city’s approval is required for a state permit to expand a landfill. Tontitown granted permission in 2017. City officials elected since then, including the mayor, oppose the expansion.

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Eco-Vista received a permit for a 10-acre expansion of the 417-acre landfill on July 31.

The landfill in Tontitown has been Northwest Arkansas’ only licensed public landfill since 1980. It has 10 to 12 years of capacity left if the expansion is approved, its managers estimate.

Eco-Vista is pleased with the favorable outcome and looks forward to continuing to serve the citizens and businesses in Northwest Arkansas, a company spokesman said in a statement. An email to the Tontitown mayor and a telephone call to city hall were not returned Wednesday.

The 2017 agreement between the city and the landfill raised the fee paid to the city for nonhazardous construction waste from 50 cents per ton to 55 cents. The city also approved specific expansion plans in 2018 and adopted a “landfill only” zoning for Eco-Vista’s site in 2020. The city’s Planning Commission also approved specific expansion plans in 2021.

The council took no action opposing the landfill until Nov. 3, 2022. The resolution passed then opposed the expansion and also requested a delay to address complaints about landfill operation. The council passed another resolution on Jan. 3, 2023, opposing the expansion outright. A group of Tontitown residents filed a request with the commission to stop the expansion April 14, as did the city three days later.

However, the city kept collecting fees at 55 cents per ton — the amount agreed to in 2017.

Either none of the city’s 2017 approval is in effect or all of it is, Administrative Law Judge Charles Moulton ruled.

“In sum, individual petitioners — and the city — cannot have it both ways,” Moulton’s ruling says. “The city cannot continue to accept the benefits from the resolution 2017-06-640R host community agreement and maintain the host community agreement is no longer in place, void or that the city has ‘not provided a definitive acceptance of the proposed expansion by formal resolution’” as it and the individual residents argue in their appeals.

Eco-Vista will run out of room without the expansion in or around February 2024, it told the commission in documents in the case.

“Eco-Vista has already had to start limiting the tonnage of waste deliveries it receives and divert Class 1 (household) waste elsewhere,” those documents say.

The city and the residents who filed an appeal say in those appeals that trash from haulers using the landfill litters the city’s streets. They also insist the expansion permit be denied because fires frequently break out at the landfill. They also cite air and water quality concerns.

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