Jackson County Health Department expresses concern about proposed landfill

Published: May. 16, 2023 at 10:32 PM CDT
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JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - A health impact assessment released by the Jackson County Health Department on Tuesday raises concern about the gas and odor emitted by landfills.

A proposed landfill in South Kansas City has caused a growing outcry. Residents near the site in Kansas City abutting Raymore held meeting. They posted protest signs. Local lawmakers introduced bills that would widen the geographic area in which residents can put the kibosh on a landfill.

Meghan Senne, the health department’s health policy coordinator, said no one asked them to research the matter. Agency staff simply saw the debate snowball and wanted to expand the conversation beyond the property value concerns that typically come with development proposals.

“We said, ‘You know, this could also have some health impacts and what would those be?’” Senne recounted.

She compiled peer-reviewed research into a seven-page health impact assessment, which she clarified does not include any policy suggestions.

“Based on the available evidence, there is some concern around short-term respiratory symptoms,” Senne concluded.

Specifically, the assessment raised concern about intermittent wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath for those with asthma when exposed to the gas and odor emitted by landfills.

“We have kids with asthma,” remarked Melanie Olson-Cox as she stood outside Summit Pointe Elementary School.

She has children who attend the school and is among those fighting the landfill. Her concern, she emphasized, is for all of the children -- not just hers.

The health department assessment includes a map showing two elementary schools in a two-mile radius of the proposed landfill site. The assessment asserts that children may be more sensitive to nuisance odors and may be more likely to have asthma.

“I can’t imagine sending my kids to the playground and having to worry about air quality every day, that they may not be able to go outside on the playground,” Olson-Cox said.

Landfills already exist near homes and schools. Google Maps shows that the Courtney Ridge landfill in Sugar Creek is within two miles of an elementary school, a park and a nature preserve.

KC Waste and Recycle Solutions, the company seeking to set up up near Raymore, contends there are no studies to show any negative impact on six local schools near landfills in Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, Sugar Creek and Shawnee.

The company prepared this FAQ list addressing the myriad concerns raised since residents discovered the plan.

On the topic of gas emissions and odors, it reads: “The repository will have a state-of-the-art methane gas collection system to manage air quality. . . . Daily cover as well as aftermarket topical applications will help eliminate odor at the working face of the repository.”

The proposed site is located on the edge of Raymore but sits in Kansas City, Missouri. The area would need to be rezoned before the site could be used as a landfill. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas last week proposed a one-year moratorium on any approval, saying he wanted to have a regional discussion about the need for a new landfill.

“From day one we’ve said that developing and building a comprehensive waste facility would take five to ten years and would only take place if a true need existed,” owner Jennifer Monheiser said in response. “We look forward to continuing to engage stakeholders to see if our plans can meet the needs of the Kansas City region.”

The health department assessment emphasized that waste reduction is a key piece of the equation.

“While the specific needs for a landfill in the Kansas City region are outside the scope of this assessment, it is very possible that unless the region can find ways to decrease overall waste generation, landfills in close proximity to municipalities, housing developments, and schools will be unavoidable,” it reads.