Opinion: Update the outdated Missouri landfill law to prevent turning south Kansas City into a dump

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is seeking voter approval this summer for a proposal to implement a $5 per ton fee on landfill and trash transfer station operators within city boundaries. It is essential for voters to support this initiative. Waste facilities, although necessary, impose substantial expenses on the communities in which they are located. Many other cities across the nation have already adopted the practice of offsetting these costs through a host fee.

Local communities must be given the chance to thoroughly evaluate all aspects of a new local landfill, including its necessity. It is equally important to carefully scrutinize the operators and their chosen locations for practicality and suitability.

Lucas and the City Council have demonstrated a keen awareness of the significance associated with selecting landfill sites in the past. Instead of hastily embracing the enticing proposals of an inexperienced developer last year, city officials wisely opted to defer their decision. They recognized the importance of allowing regional experts to thoroughly examine whether a landfill in south Kansas City is truly necessary. Having completed the study, it is evident that there is no pressing requirement for a landfill in that location or its vicinity. The proposed landfill would only impose an unnecessary burden on taxpayers and families in the Kansas City area. The mayor’s foresight in avoiding a hasty and ill-informed course of action has been justified.

The developer remains undeterred by the study and is making a comeback this year. In light of this, we urge state legislators to contemplate revising a law that is three decades old. The proposed revision would grant neighboring municipalities the authority to decide whether or not a landfill should be situated within a one-mile radius of our residences, schools, drinking water sources, recreational areas, and commercial establishments.

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The existing law falls short in safeguarding local control as it fails to consider the input of numerous directly impacted communities. According to the law, only municipalities situated within a half-mile radius of a landfill are given a say in the matter. Unfortunately, the proposed 200-acre solid waste landfill in south Kansas City, which would rank among the largest in the state, is conveniently located right at the half-mile mark. While this buffer may have sufficed three decades ago when this area was primarily agricultural, the circumstances have drastically changed. Instead of vast farmland, there are now thriving neighborhoods, thriving businesses, vibrant parks, bustling playgrounds, and a significant population of thousands of residents.

The proposed new landfill in south Kansas City is located in a 3-mile-wide section that resembles a peninsula. This area is surrounded by creeks, lakes, and four different municipalities. The only way to access this area directly is through Missouri Route 150. If the landfill is approved, it would result in hundreds of trash trucks driving through these municipalities on a daily basis. This would lead to an increase in debris and litter, requiring constant road repairs. Local residents would also have to contend with sharing the road with these trash trucks, causing traffic congestion. Additionally, children attending the nine schools in this area, including Summit Pointe Elementary School, located directly across the street, would have to share the road with dump trucks filled with trash.

Landfill fires and serious injuries are unfortunate but common occurrences. This reality was recently highlighted when a fire broke out near a proposed landfill site in south Kansas City. The first responders on the scene were the fire departments from Raymore, South Metropolitan, and Grandview, as they were the closest. In contrast, the Kansas City Fire Department, located 10 miles away, was the last to arrive. This delay in response is due to the lack of adequate fire and EMS services in the immediate area of Kansas City. As a result, the responsibility to combat such incidents falls on neighboring municipalities, who should prioritize the safety of their own residents. Unfortunately, they currently have no say in these matters.

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The problem can be addressed by the Missouri General Assembly through the passage of House Bill 1751 and Senate Bill 739. These bills aim to extend the buffer zone from half a mile to a full mile, allowing those who are most affected to have a say in the matter. It is a simple request to update an outdated law to align with the current times and ensure that residents in neighborhoods facing the potential impact of a new landfill have a seat at the table. Fortunately, H.B. 1751 has already passed on Thursday, and now we await the decision of the state Senate.

Mayor Lucas has acknowledged the social and economic implications of waste, and we urge lawmakers in Jefferson City to do the same.

Jennifer Phanton, a resident of Grandview, is a passionate day trader, devoted rescue mom, and avid nature enthusiast. She is also the founder of the Kill the Fill political action committee.

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