BILOXI — Local leaders on Mississippi's coast are afraid that some of the waste generated by the oil spill cleanup will go to nearby landfills — after they asked BP and state environmental regulators not to put it there.
Bags and bags of tar balls, gooey oil, oiled boom and workers' oil-stained clothing are waiting in large containers at sites along the coast for a decision by BP on where to dump them.
BP has a contract with Waste Management for two landfills in Mississippi — Pecan Grove near Pass Christian and Central Landfill in Pearl River County — but it can take the oil waste there only if the material is deemed non-hazardous.
If the state Department of Environmental Quality finds the material unsuitable, that could stop it from going to the landfills. However, that's not likely.
The decision is expected this week.
"It's like someone dumping this stuff in our front yard and apologizing for it, picking it up and then turning around and dumping it in our backyard," said Harrison County supervisor Marlin Ladner.
Ladner said Harrison County issued the permit for Pecan Grove, but had the county known what was coming it wouldn't have signed off on it receiving oil-spill waste.
Now the county has little recourse on the issue, he said, even though its attorneys have looked for an out.
DEQ Director Trudy Fisher said Wednesday so far testing of the oiled material in the Gulf "has shown that it's below the limits for what is considered hazardous material," making it technically OK for Pecan Grove.
In the oil-spill disposal plan, EPA requires BP to randomly test the material to "demonstrate" it's non-hazardous waste before it can go there, Fisher said. She said her agency will be involved in that testing.
"It's between BP and the EPA, but the landfill program is a state program, so we have to agree that the material is suitable for the landfill," she said, "to protect the citizens.
"We're not going to rely on BP or the federal government," she said. "I do care." But she added, "Pecan Grove has a clay and synthetic liner and is fully capable of handling the waste."
She promised oil-spill waste won't be brought in from other states.
She said each state will handle its own, which has been an issue because the Pecan Grove landfill's intake area reaches all the way to Baldwin County, Ala.
But Wednesday, Rene Faucheaux with Waste Management said Mississippi oil-spill waste has already been hauled off to Louisiana.
Faucheaux said last week the company hauled loads of it to the Colonial Landfill in Ascension Parish near Gonzales, La.
Faucheaux said the firm is awaiting DEQ's decision, it's a matter of protocol, but even if DEQ gives the thumbs-up for Pecan Grove, that doesn't mean the oil-spill waste will go there.
"We haven't agreed to anything at this point," he said.
"When we get information from DEQ, we'll make a decision at that point," Faucheaux said. "We're working with instructions from BP."
Complete coverage of the oil spill at SunHerald.com