HL OpEd: Owner's promises reek like Sulphur landfill

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HL OpEd: Owner's promises reek like Sulphur landfill  Posted: October 28, 2003

Posted on Sun, Oct. 26, 2003 Owner's promises reek like Sulphur landfill By K. Penney Sanders

Our little village of Sulphur, like so many in Kentucky, is struggling to keep its identity and vitality. Not so long ago it was a thriving railroad town, with a bank, two stores, at least three churches, a post office and a K-8 school. Now it is an unincorporated entity, still with its post office, store and, thankfully, the churches.

Sitting on Henry County line, an ideal spot for spoilers of the land, Sulphur is nestled against a massive garbage dump (the state now calls them landfills, but they are still dumps), which seeks to grow ever larger. Now owned by a large out-of-state corporation, the landfill hovers over us, threatening our homes, our farms, our environment and our lives.

It is sad that a Fortune 500 company has so little regard for either the community or the state where it does business. The corporation, no doubt, chose Kentucky because, as a state, we look for short-term gains without any attention to or regard for long-term implications. As a result, with its lax regulations and weak enforcement, Kentucky and its people are perfect candidates for exploitation.

In the short term, our village is victimized by an incredible, putrid stench, blowing dust and trash. Trucks carrying garbage rumble over roads, paid for with our tax dollars -- dollars now turned against us. The main road out of Sulphur is often covered with mud and slime, making travel difficult and sometimes dangerous.

However, the long-term consequences of this landfill will affect not only Sulphur residents, but potentially those who live miles away. Because all landfills eventually leak, this site, sitting on karst, has the potential to affect the Little Kentucky River, its aquifers and, ultimately, the drinking water of several downstream municipalities.

Twenty years ago, when this landfill was allowed to take root in our community, residents were assured that the site would "look like a golf course." Today, the landfill looks exactly like what it is: a garbage dump, a shameful manifestation of false promises and deal-making.

The deceit continues. Just last week, our community was promised "a fishing pond, soccer fields and a park." For these gifts, all we have to do is agree to let the landfill create another great big hole and scrape all the useable soil off 110 acres. There will probably never be a park, pond or soccer field, only more destruction of our lives, land and community.

The people of Sulphur have received no protection or relief from elected officials despite repeated cries for help. Those important folk see only the tax revenue, which, in the short term, fill the county coffers but, in the long-term, wreak environmental havoc and destroy property and lives.

Requests for assistance to deal with the odor or other problems are met with a shrug of the shoulders and a "We can't get involved" response.

The attitude exhibited by the politicians is that the people of Sulphur are expendable. One elected official called us "casualities of war." Someone forgot to ask who declared war on us.

Using politically connected lobbyists and lawyers who drag cases out to the detriment of justice for all, the out-of-state corporation has seemingly assured its future in garbage. Regardless of the outcome of the gubernatorial race -- or any political contest -- the corporation is covered. Against such power and influence, who is going to care about the 200-plus people of Sulphur?

This tragedy, like so many before it, is marked by the "cover all bases" approach that has become the hallmark of doing political business in Kentucky. Mastering the political game is the key to success. Third World dictatorships have nothing on Kentucky when it comes to political maneuvering, false promises and the exchange of money or other valuable assets for favors rendered.

We proudly call Kentucky a commonwealth. However, there is no common wealth, only perks and privileges for an elite few, to the detriment of the many. To continue down the path of short-term gains will eventually lead, long term, to our destruction.

We can no longer sustain our state on flash, glitter and politically expedient promises. We must have leaders, local and state, who can rise above the rampant political and corporate gamesmanship, who can and will truly lead for the good of all.

If nothing changes, the little village of Sulphur and its people will be the victims.

K. Penney Sanders of Sulphur is a farmer, a faculty member at Spalding University in Louisville and a retired public school educator. Reach her by e-mail at kpstorst@aol.com.


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