SLUDGE targets DNR

Before 1972, open dumps were the norm in Missouri.

After a two-year survey prior to that time, the state health department determined the dumps, plus authorized land waste-disposal sites, were causing serious threats to human health and the environment.

Enter the Missouri Solid Waste Management Law, created in 1972, in response to the state agency’s findings. The Solid Waste Management Law, which has undergone multiple revisions since it was instituted, required local governments to implement and adhere to solid waste management plans, with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) establishing the criteria for land disposal of the solid waste.

Several southwest Missouri residents believe that the DNR has since fallen down on its job. They’re so certain, in fact, that they formed an LLC with the memorable name, SLUDGE (Stop Land Use Damaging our Ground and Environment), and plunked down a hefty sum to retain an environmental attorney and file suit against the DNR.

Their petition, filed in Cole County Circuit Court on Oct. 29 by Stephen Jeffery, of the Jeffery Law Group, alleges that the DNR is exceeding its statutory authority by allowing Denali Water Solutions to construct and operate two earthen basins – one near Fairview and the other near Longview — “without the necessary permits specifically required by the Missouri Solid Waste Management Law, § 260.205.1, RSMo.”

“A toxic stew,” SLUDGE’s petition calls the contents of Denali’s basins.

SLUDGE’s petition alleges that each earthen basin of “stew,” which are constructed by Denali, is a “Solid Waste Processing Facility,” and the DNR has an obligation to require the solid waste permits from Denali that are mandated by law.

SLUDGE’s members and supporters, the petition alleges, “are adversely affected by the effects on their health, property values, loss of recreational opportunities, and the presence of offensive odors, insects, and other harms caused by the earthen basins.”

Korrie Bateman, a SLUDGE member who lives a couple of miles south of the lagoon, said her main concern is the smell.

“I’m sick of it,” she said in an Aug. 16 interview with the Cassville Democrat. “Right now, it smells so bad outside that we can’t stand to be out there. We can’t have company, we can’t barbecue — we can’t do anything.”

Bateman said the smell emanating from the lagoon is variable and unpredictable and can descend without notice.

Flies, too, are a problem. “We’ve spent money for exterminators and special heat and air filters in an attempt to kill the flies and to keep the smell out of the house, but nothing seems to help,” Bateman said.

Bateman said she feels as though hers and other citizens’ rights are being violated.

“When one of our neighbors wanted to put chicken houses in, the DNR told him he had to send letters to all of the neighbors letting us know what he planned to do,” she said. “We got that letter. But with this lagoon, we weren’t notified or asked about anything. They just put the lagoon in, and we didn’t know what was going on until we started smelling the stink.”

Bateman also feels as though she and other neighbors have been sold out, along with the best interest of the community at large.

“There’s money being made off this stuff, but it’s the people at the top making the money, while those of us at the bottom are suffering,” she said. “I kept quiet for a long time, but [several] months ago, I realized that if I [didn’t] say something, it’s possible nothing [would] ever change.”

Vallerie Steele, SLUDGE spokesperson who lives adjacent to the Denali basin near Fairview, expresses the same sentiments.

“We have to band together as a community to stop this,” she said.

SLUDGE members are backing their complaints with their time and their money.

Their petition asks the court to stop the storage and disposal of solid wastes, sludges and biosolids in the earthen basins without requiring them to be permitted as a solid waste processing facility. They also ask that any further action by the DNR toward Denali’s Missouri Clean Water Law permit applications be stopped.

The Solid Waste Management Law established in 1972 essentially abolished open dumping of waste, according to a 1999 DNR publication, The State of Garbage in Missouri.

Open dumping may have stopped for a time, but SLUDGE members and supporters argue that in southwest Missouri it’s happening again.

SLUDGE’s environmental attorney, Stephen Jeffery, will be the guest speaker at a free chili dinner hosted by SLUDGE at the John Q. Hammons Community Center in Fairview, at 7 p.m. on Friday. The event is open to the public, and questions are welcome.

Jeffery is a former attorney for the DNR, where he participated in the cleanup of the Times Beach Superfund site, the development of KATY Trail State Park and the development of the Missouri’s Title V air operating permit program.

An account has been established at Security Bank, where deposits can be made at any of its three locations, in Cassville, Exeter and Wheaton, to help with SLUDGE’s legal fees.

“Donations will be kept anonymous,” Steele said. Donations can also be made at SLUDGE’s website,, where community resources can also be found.

One comment

  1. The smell in Stella is horrible…my kids won’t come here to my house because of it…..Triway school is affected by it too…..teachers are not able to open windows to let in fresh sir

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