Naval Air Station Meridian officials and the mayor of Marion are expressing concerns over the location of a proposed garbage transfer station in Lauderdale County.
A proposed amendment to Lauderdale County’s Solid Waste Management Plan would lead to a waste transfer station and recycling center being built at the G.V. Sonny Montgomery Industrial Park.
NAS Meridian officials are concerned that the transfer station could attract vultures into the flight paths of naval jets. Marion Mayor Elvis Hudson is concerned about the station’s proximity to the town's water treatment plant.
Lauderdale County District 5 supervisor Kyle Rutledge said the proposed site would act as a transfer location for both recyclable material and garbage. JWC Environmental, LLC would operate the new station.
For the station to be built, the Board of Supervisors would have to amend its Solid Waste Management Plan. Next, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality would have to approve the amendment for it to take effect, according to Rutledge.
Capt. Brent Moore, commanding officer of NAS Meridian, said on Friday that the proposed station could draw vultures from Pine Ridge Landfill. He said the proposed transfer site has the potential to bring vultures into the landing pattern and approach corridor for naval training jets.
“We would propose that they (the board of supervisors) would consider another location and work with us in that process,” Moore said.
Vultures have struck jets in the past, according to Navy officials. Capt. Tracey Gendreau, commodore of Training Air Wing One, said that the last serious bird strike was in 2017.
“In that instance, that vulture flew down the intake of one of the jets and caused the engine to fail, and the air crew was able to eject and recovered safely,” he said. “However, the aircraft crashed.”
Commander Dustin Worley, an aviation safety officer at NAS Meridian, said that encountering a vulture while flying poses a significant safety risk for pilots. He said the jets are training aircraft and only have one engine.
“If one of those animals hits in the wrong spot, it can completely disable the aircraft and cause a crash and the air crew to have to eject,” Worley said. “So it could be pretty catastrophic to these aircraft.”
Scott Rush, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology and management at Mississippi State University, is studying the activity of vultures around Meridian. He said in an email to The Meridian Star that black vultures and turkey vultures make short movements around Meridian. He explained that a single, confined source of resources assessed by the birds, such as one landfill, limits the movement of the birds.
“If additional access is provided, through multiple locations that harbor refuse, even for short periods to time, then vultures will likely move between these resources enhancing the likelihood of danger these birds pose to pilots,” he said.
The proposed station would also be next to the Marion Water Treatment Plant. Mayor Elvis Hudson is concerned that airborne particles from the station could enter the water supply at the plant and affect the water quality.
Hudson said the treatment plant supplies water to the citizens of Town of Marion and to businesses in the Northeast Industrial Park.
“The water is the lifeblood of any area,” he said.
There will be a public hearing about the amendment at the Lauderdale County Courthouse Annex at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, according to District 2 Supervisor Wayman Newell.
“At that time, the supervisors will hear the pros and cons of the transfer station, and then we will go from there,” Newell said.
Rutledge said the board of supervisors will learn about three different measures at the public hearing. One measure is the creation of the transfer station. Another is that Waste Pro wants to expand a landfill. And another measure is that JWC Environmental wants to expand its landfill on Willow Lake Road.
At a future date, the supervisors will determine which, if any, of these measures to approve. The measures would then have to be approved by MDEQ.
Rutledge said there is a 10 day period after the public hearing in which anyone can submit questions or comments. The board will have to make a decision on these matters within 90 days of the hearing.