Fred Weber representatives take the offensive against Oakville residents
Representatives of Fred Weber Inc. recently used a public hearing to take the offensive against residents opposed to a solid-waste transfer station the company is seeking to operate in Oakville.
"Transfer stations can be, and are, operated within the law, so as not to constitute a health menace,'' said Al Michenfelder, attorney for the F.W. Disposal Co., a subsidiary of Fred Weber Inc. of St. Louis. "People here three weeks ago didn't have that background and had every reason to believe it couldn't be done.''
About 800 people attended last week's public hearing at Oakville Senior High School that was sponsored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. More than 1,500 residents attended a similar hearing at Oakville Senior High School on June 19.
"It's a shame people have to come out to hearing after hearing, month after month,'' said Oakville resident Kurt Witzel, a former member of the Mehlville Board of Education.
"It seems like they'd get the message,'' Oakville resident Joe Guelbert said. "People don't want that garbage transfer station here.''
F.W. Disposal has submitted applications to the St. Louis County Department of Health and to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to operate the solid-waste transfer station at 5219 Baumgartner Road. The transfer station would be used to receive non-hazardous municipal waste, household waste, commercial, agricultural, governmental and industrial waste. The wastes then would be transferred from collection trucks to larger carriers and hauled to a permitted solid waste disposal facility.
Michenfelder told the crowd that Department of Natural Resources records indicate that the 11 trash transfer stations in the St. Louis area had "zero complaints in the last four years.''
But public records obtained by the Call last week indicate that the closest transfer station to Oakville residents, a station in Kimmswick, has been cited for 10 infractions since 1999.
Those infractions include failures to remove solid waste at the end of each working day, failure to properly store recovered materials, acceptance of solid waste when the available storage capacity was full, failure to operate in accordance with its permit and repeated failures to submit quarterly tonnage fee reports.
During a Dec. 16 tour of a showcase facility in St. Robert, operators told some county Planning Commission members and Oakville residents that some of the same conditions exist there.
Specifically, facility manager Doug Adkins told tour participants, "We get rats and skunks. If a driver brings in a dead possum, that really attracts them.''
Most days, Adkins said, two loads remained in the facility overnight.
On June 27, St. Robert City Attorney Tyce Smith wrote the St. Louis County Department of Health disputing a news story about the tour of the facility that was published in the Dec. 26 Call, contending Adkins "was substantially misquoted.''
Smith never contacted the Call, but a Weber representative contended that Smith had "conducted a thorough investigation'' into the story.
In a June 27 letter to Smith, Call President Bill Milligan, author of the Dec. 26 news story, wrote: "As a participant in the tour of the facility, I spoke directly with Mr. Adkins and the information published in the Call accurately reflects our conversation. Mr. Adkins now may regret or dispute his remarks, but I assure you he was quoted accurately.''
Weber representatives insisted the Call's response to Smith's letter was not forwarded to them, though the response had been faxed to the Department of Health.
"If I had known, I would not have mentioned it,'' Derrick Standley of the Genesis Group, a consultant representing Fred Weber, later told the Call.
During the hearing, state legislators representing south county said it may not matter to Department of Natural Resources officials whether the proposed Oakville facility is a nuisance or a health threat.
"I've discovered a regulation which requires written notification to bordering residents,'' said state Rep Walt Bivins, R-Oakville. "No one received such notification of this proposal.''
State Rep. Jim Avery, R-Crestwood, said, "Before I left Jefferson City a guy I know at DNR said this is a done deal. I am happy to see bipartisan opposition to this proposal. Maybe now, (state Rep.) Sue Schoemehl (D-Oakville) can support Republicans' budget proposal and limit funding to these departments.''
Opponents of the waste transfer station plan to launch an incorporation effort to regulate the facility and the Weber quarry down the road if the transfer station is built. "If county government won't protect us, incorporation will,'' stated signs displayed at the meeting.
In response to residents' comments, Michenfelder said, "It's not a garbage dump, it's not a trash dump. It is a point of transfer from smaller capacity vehicles to larger capacity vehicles. The purpose being to reduce the number of hauling trucks on the road that take solid waste to a landfill. A properly run transfer station will not generate odor. It will not generate vectors. Once a day the floor will be scoured down with high-pressure water.''
But the operator of the St. Robert facility said last December that spraying off the floor is not always practical. "You'd have a skating rink in there if you did that.''