The Solid Waste Disposal Authority is suing the city of Mobile over an agreement the city made with Waste Management late last year.
As part of the agreement, the city will pay Waste Management Mobile Bay Environmental Center, the operator of the city-owned Chastang Landfill, lump sums of $250,000 and $126,000 for lost profits and reimbursements, respectively, as well as monthly payments of $2.40 per cubic yard of construction and demolition waste, or trash diverted from the landfill.
WM won a 2016 lawsuit filed in United States District Court against the Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWDA) on the grounds the agency breached a 1994 contract between the city and WM’s predecessor, Transamerican.
Among other things, the lawsuit claimed lost profits for WM from the city’s use of Dirt, Inc. as the landfill for yard trash. In January 2017, WM had sought an injunction to get the city to stop using Dirt, Inc. and instead send yard debris to the Chastang landfill. Tipping fees from the landfill go to WM.
The city continued using Dirt, Inc. to save money and on Dec. 22, 2017, entered into an agreement with WM to avoid any legal ramifications. The same day, the SWDA filed suit against the city.
At issue for the SWDA, Chairman Pete Riehm said, is that neither the authority nor the City Council were included in the decision to settle. The entire waste stream, Riehm said, belongs to the SWDA.
“We’re not saying we’re opposed to sending the [construction and demolition] waste to Dirt, Inc.,” he said. “We’re opposed to the arrangement and how it came about. We have to be involved.”
In fact, Riehm did acknowledge that the city would actually save money using Dirt, Inc. For one, he said, Chastang is meant to take household garbage, meaning it’s designed with a different set of safeguards. Dirt, Inc., on the other hand, is designed to take yard debris and other similar waste.
Riehm estimated it costs the city roughly $10 per cubic yard to dispose of the debris at Dirt, Inc. He said the tipping fees for the same amount of debris at Chastang would amount to nearly $40. Even adding the fee of $2.40 per ton, Riehm said, the city would save money.
However, Riehm argues WM never really wanted the yard debris to begin with and thus questioned paying them to divert it. He said WM used the yard debris diversion as leverage after they decided to sue the SWDA.
“We flat said there was no way we were going to sign up to pay them in perpetuity when they didn’t want it in the beginning,” he said. “That’s a huge amount of money going over there over a crappy 1994 contract.”
Riehm called the agreement an “undue burden” on Mobile citizens.
“The burden on the city and its citizens is onerous,” he said. “It’s $400,000 or $500,000 per year, potentially. That’s in addition to the 25 percent higher disposal rate the city already deals with than comparable cities,” Riehm said.
In the suit, the SWDA argued an agreement of that size should have been approved by the City Council and questions how it wasn’t.
City Attorney Ricardo Woods declined to comment on the lawsuit, except to say the city would fight it in the best interest of residents. He said the city would be filing an answer soon.
(Photo | Lagniappe) Mobile’s Solid Waste Disposal Authority argues it wasn’t a party to the city’s agreement with Waste Management, although the authority “owns” all the waste generated in the city