Bay County - Neighbors of a burning landfill could soon get some relief from the smoke they've been breathing the last two weeks. But a judge has yet to give state officials the authority to permanently shut down the troubled landfill.
The state department of environmental protection appeared before circuit judge Michael Overstreet Friday, petitioning him to allow the agency to enter the landfill property, put out the fire, and close the landfill down. The fire has been burning at the Kamax Landfill off Highway 390 for two weeks.
The tons of debris under the dirt are an endless supply of fuel for the fire. But the smoke is the real issue, and neighbors are worried about the damage the fire's already done.
"I've been asleep. I'm on oxygen all night until the next day. I've woken up thinking the house is on fire...It's just from the smoke. I guess it comes in through the air conditioning but you smell it in the house too," Margaret Shaddox said.
Shaddox lives next to the landfill and normally takes oxygen treatments for six hours a day for a lung disease. She said she's had to increase those treatments since the fire started. Even then she says she can't avoid the smoke. She said she would go to a motel room, but she can't afford it.
DEP has had its eyes on this landfill for some time. It's only suppose to accept demolition and construction debris. But state officials say the landfill's owner has accepted old furniture, appliances, welding tanks, clothing and all sorts of other items.
There are far more serious charges of groundwater contamination and storm water runoff polluting nearby streams. The owner recently died, so the landfill has been tied up in probate. DEP officials had to go to court to take any further action.
In the meantime, county Firefighters set up at the landfill Thursday morning. They've been working on the fire, as well as conducting water and air quality tests.
"The health department has played a role in the air sampling that's been conducted by the fire department. They have ambient units that can collect air samples and that data has been given to the health department," Sally Cooey with the DEP said.
After Judge Overstreet's ruling Friday, DEP will be able to put a layer of soil over the landfill to smother the fire. No word as to when that will happen, but as far as permanently closing Kamax Landfill, that's still in the judge's hands.
The same landfill has had at least eight fires in the last several years, the biggest being in 200.