Paxton Town Council Meeting Adopts CHELCO Ordinance, Opposes Deep Injection Well Proposal

KELLY LAYMAN, attending the Aug. 15 monthly meeting of the Paxton Town Council, spoke against exploratory and deep injection disposal wells in Northwest Florida.

Story and photos by JENNA BAILEY

The Paxton Town Council met Tuesday, Aug.15, for their monthly meeting. On this month’s agenda were four presentations, old business, attorney report, mayor report, department reports and public comments.

The four presentations were in regards to the second reading/adoption of Ordinance 17-01 (CHELCO franchise agreement), Resolution 17-01 (new water construction), the scheduling of budget workshops for September, and Resolution 2017-17 in opposition of the digging of exploratory wells and any subsequent deep injection well within Jackson county.

Presentations: The council began presentations with the second reading/adoption of Ordinance 17-01 for the extension and renewal of the CHELCO franchise in Paxton. Ordinance No. 2017-01 reads, “An ordinance granting to Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc., a corporation, its successors and assigns, the right and franchise to maintain and operate an electric plant and an electric transmission and distribution system in the city of Paxton and to construct, maintain, operate and extend electric transmission and distribution lines in the streets and public places of said city; and providing the terms and conditions of such grant, a severability clause, a repealing clause and providing an effective date.” For the second reading of Ordinance 17-01, the council solicited public comment after which they would make their decision. With no comments by the public the board made a unanimous decision to adopt.

The second presentation, Resolution 17-01, relates to the acquisition, construction and expansion of the municipal water system that Paxton is currently going through. This authorizes Paxton to issue bonds for the new system in the amount of $454,000. This month’s meeting was for the formal adoption of this resolution. The resolution passed to adopt.
For the third presentation Paxton city clerk, Suzan Imfeld, spoke with the council to set a date for next month’s budget meeting. Budget meetings are usually held one hour prior to regular council meetings. The council agreed to hold the budget meeting on Sept. 19, the date of the next council meeting, at 4:30pm.

The final presentation was for Resolution 2017-17 that reads, “A resolution of the City of Marianna, Florida, Jackson County, Florida, expressing strong opposition to a proposed exploratory well and deep injection waste disposal well to be placed at the existing Springhill Regional Landfill; providing an effective date.” The city of Marianna has expressed concern with the welfare of its residents and the protection of natural resources in Marianna, Fla. and the surrounding areas of Jackson County, as well as the quality and reliability of Florida’s underground water resources, including the Floridian Aquifer. Waste Management has sought the issuance of a permit from the Florida Dept. of Environment Protection for the purpose of digging an exploratory well to precede a deep injection well for the disposal of landfill wastewater, otherwise known as “leachate” at the existing Springhill Landfill site in Campbellton, Fla.

On May 23, 2017, Jackson County held a public hearing during which the community at large expressed vehement opposition to the exploratory well. The city of Marianna, Jackson County, Florida supports the overwhelming majority of the residents who strongly oppose the exploratory well and any subsequent deep injection disposal well.

Two citizens in attendance spoke to the council on the subject. The first speaker regarding this resolution was Danny Glidewell. Glidewell asked the council to approve the resolution. Glidewell explained that the deep injection waste disposal well would run a mile-long pipe into the aquifer. Wastewater would be pumped through the aquifer and into the ground. Glidewell warned that pipes often break and if the pipe broke residents would lose their drinking water. This would affect private wells in addition to the city of Paxton. Marianna, Sneads and Freeport have passed the resolution to oppose the wells. Glidewell proposed that the Paxton Town Council do the same as a show of support for the Jackson County City Commission.

Next up was Kelly Layman, Walton County resident and former Florida Department of Environmental Protection chief of staff. Council member Ann Sexton asked, “When did this start?” Layman began her explanation by stating that Jackson county did not know that the applicant filed for a deep injection well almost a year ago until there was a notice in their paper in March 2017.

Layman went on the define what leachate is. Leachate is the juice that collects at the bottom of a landfill and is extremely toxic. “I cannot emphasize this enough,” Layman stated. Layman explained that a deep injection well is inappropriate for the landfills because the water levels in the Panhandle are much higher than the rest of the state of Florida, meaning that leachate would spread faster; containing a potent mixture of contaminants.

She added that leachate is worse than sewer water because with sewer water you know what the contaminant is and how to fix it, whereas with leachate it could be any mixture of contaminants, making it very difficult to remove. “I am not anti-applicant,” Layman clarifies, “I am anti-permit because of the geometry and geology. We don’t care if it’s Waste Management, Walton County or a private citizen – we’re opposing any deep injection well that would put leachate or any other landfill waste disposal into or around the Florida Aquifer.”

Following the conclusion of Layman’s presentation, the council made a motion to adopt Resolution 2017-17 on the account of it being a public issue. “We’re specifically saying we oppose that permit not because of who’s asking for it, not because we have invested interest in Marianna or Jackson County, but because of the Florida Aquifer and where we sit in Northwest Florida,” the council declared.

Mayor Report: Mayor Hayward Thomas set a motion to declare a property surplus and to sell or salvage said property surplus, and later use the money to benefit local community programs. The list of surplus property includes: a shed at the wastewater treatment plant that has been deemed a health hazard and subsequently taken down, old playground equipment, old doors from city hall that were removed over a decade ago, an old generator and water meters that are no longer of use.

 

Public Comments: For public comments president of the Paxton High School (PHS) key club, Cayler Dixen, and key club sponsor, Laurie Gilbert, approached the council to ask what the PHS key club can do to help prepare for the United Way Day of Caring. Both Gilbert and Dixen expressed enthusiasm and eagerness to help. “What can Key Club do for the city of Paxton?” Gilbert queried. Mayor Thomas suggested that the club paint a mural. The PHS Key Club will present ideas for the mural at the next council meeting which will be held Sept.19 at 5:30 p.m. located at Paxton Town Hall.