Plantation Oaks works hard to keep earth first

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

Protecting the environment has Doug Wilson’s attention every day.

As long-time manager of Waste Management’s extensive landfill and recycling center near Sibley, Wilson takes the environmental caretaker role very seriously, he said as he described the makeup of the disposal area and safeguards in place there.

“We’ve never had a violation,” said Wilson, who has worked at the Plantation Oaks center since shortly after it opened in 1989.

Email newsletter signup

“I’m really pro-active on everything, and if I think there’s a problem, I’ll call them,” he said, referring to officials at the state Department of Environmental Quality in Jackson.

“I’ve worked with those people a long time.”

Wilson said he has to be sure nothing leaves the 182 acres owned by Waste Management.

“I want nothing to go up, out or down,” he said.

The landfill now comprises 35 acres of the total area. Another 52 acres are in a planned expansion and are expected to be approved.

“The new area was in the original design; the DEQ wanted more ground studies,” Wilson said.

“They gave us 24 months to do that but then put a moratorium on building any more landfills.

“Now this year they are reviewing the plan and we expect public hearings on this later in the year.”

Meanwhile, the landfill area now in operation receives an average of 480 tons of garbage a day.

Protection from the decomposing waste begins in the complex construction of the site, which cost the company an average of $250,000 an acre to build.

The landfill base is three feet of compacted clay placed on the natural soils.

Next, a 60-density polyethylene liner rests upon the clay and a geo-textile cover on the polyethylene.

Finally, two feet of sand cap the layers.

The geo-textile fabric transmits the leachate, liquid extracted from the garbage, which then is removed and treated.

“We check for methane gas once a quarter, the ground wells twice a year and the surface water twice a month,” Wilson said. “We have a monthly inspection by the DEQ.”

The company occasionally disagrees with some of the regulations imposed by environmental agencies, but complying is never a question.

“We don’t always agree, but we absolutely abide by the rules and then some. That’s the way we operate,” Wilson said.

Having the St. Catherine National Wildlife Refuge as a next-door neighbor is not something Waste Management has taken as a concern, Wilson said.

“There surely isn’t a problem. And we were here first,” he said.

In fact, wildlife, birds and waterfowl are in the same abundance on the Waste Management acreage as years ago.

“We’ve had people ask if they could hunt on the property, but we don’t allow that,” he said.

The garbage filling the Plantation Oaks site comes from most of the counties in southwest Mississippi and from Vidalia, La. Some commercial waste comes from Concordia Parish.

Trucks are weighed in and out each day, dumping waste according to a grid system which has the site divided into areas of 50 square feet.

It was that meticulous system which some years ago allowed a Natchez woman to find the garbage bag in which she located her missing diamond ring.

Residential and commercial waste are about equal in amount at Plantation Oaks, Wilson said.

Commercial waste, however, is more highly restricted.

Residential waste is exempt from some of the regulations such as those against disposing of old batteries and garden supplies, for instance.

Wilson has been with Waste Management since 1987, when he operated heavy equipment and helped to build a landfill in Louisiana.

From that experience, he moved up in the company, learning all facets of landfill operations.

He joined the Natchez company in 1990 as site manager at the landfill and now is district manager.

He is certified as a land manager by the Solid Waste Association of North America and has served on that organization’s board and twice as its president.

What’s more, he is the only certified instructor in the state who can help other land managers to gain credentials with the association.

Once certified, the land manager must keep up with changes by completing continuing education courses, Wilson said.