Utilities Department, septic haulers at odds over disposal in Benton system

Septic tank disposal operators are finding themselves at odds with Benton city officials.
Terry McKinney, general manager of Benton Utilities, and the Public Utilities Commission have recommended that the city disallow the discharge of residential and industrial waste from residential and commercial waste haulers into the Benton Wastewater System.
The first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit this practice was presented at a City Council meeting Monday night.
Several haulers attended the meeting to protest the action which, they say, will effectively put them out of business.
Alfred Richards of Alrite Septic Tank Service pointed out that the city will be creating a health hazard by not allowing the disposal from the tanks, many of which are located on property in outlying areas of Benton.
"This is a health issue," Richards said. "We've got to have a place to dispose of waste. Pulaski County provides a place.
"If people in the city's outlying areas are not serviced, it will affect city residents with the increase of flies and other insects.
He added, "I live outside the city limits, but I call Benton my home. This is where I shop. Don't we feel some responsibility for our neighbors?"
Richards referred to an earlier meeting in which he was told that a task force would be formed to try to work out the issue and wondered what happened to that plan.
"We're willing to pay more and we expect to be fined if we do anything illegal. We've talked about raising fees and we may have to hire additional employees, but we want to work this out.
"Each county needs to provide a place to dump waste," Richards said. "I don't understand how the city can do this. We understand being fined if we do illegal dumping ... but legal dumping? I don't understand.
"We've been dumping here since I've been in business," he said.
A second hauler also referred to the earlier meeting with McKinney and said he, too, believed a task force would be utilized to try to reach a solution.
A third hauler also asked the city to reconsider the plan.
McKinney, speaking to the council, contended the city is putting itself at risk of equipment problems.
"It's the exposure to the liability," he said.
He said that the city would have to raise its fees higher than those charged in Little Rock if the haulers are allowed to continue dumping at the Benton facility.
"It's a big issue," McKinney said, adding that the haulers could go to other facilities in other counties.
"I'm not aware of any regulation that says you can't dispose of waste in another county," he said.
He pointed out that Hot Springs and North Little Rock recently were fined for being out of compliance.
Aldermen Bill Donnor and Steve Lee questioned why this has suddenly become an issue.
McKinney said the material from septic tanks is "60 to 80 times more concentrated."
"What's going to happen if nobody accepts it?" Lee asked.
"They'll just have to go to North Little Rock," McKinney said.
Alderman Doug Stracener pointed out that the city recently installed "a half a million dollars in new equipment. The ratepayers would have to bear the cost for only a handful of city residents who are on septic systems."
The ordinance is scheduled for second and third readings before the aldermen will vote on the issue.