McFarland bows out on landfill negotiations with TVA

-A A +A
By The Staff



Negotiations that county officials hope to have with TVA about the possibility of storing fly ash in the Midtown landfill might not include Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland.

He told commissioners earlier this week that he thought it was ill-advised for him to participate in any such talks with the utility company.

“The issue that I’m concerned about there is if my office is involved on the front end negotiating a contract and there’s later a dispute and a lawsuit over that contract, I may well become a witness to the case,” McFarland said. “If I’m a witness, I can’t be the lawyer.”

The county commission in July passed a resolution in July, which called for McFarland and County Executive Mike Farmer to negotiate with TVA about the possibility of storing future fly ash in the Midtown landfill.

Officials hope such a deal will generate revenue, which the county could use for school construction and other building projects.

McFarland, the elected county attorney, asked that he be excluded from any negotiations with TVA.

The commission granted his request and selected Commissioner James Harmon to join Farmer in the negotiations. Harmon is chairman of the county’s solid waste committee.

“It just makes sense to put somebody off of that solid waste committee on there, and it might as well be the chairman,” Commissioner Bobby Collier said.

TVA is the subject of several lawsuits because of the fly ash disaster that polluted the environment and damaged homes in the area surrounding the Kingston Fossil Plant.

McFarland represents a client who is suing TVA, but he said that’s not the reason he wanted out of negotiations on the landfill.

“Any case I’ve got related to the spill is adverse to TVA,” McFarland said. “I wouldn’t have any kind of conflict there. It’s just if I negotiated a contract and the terms became disputed later on and I became a witness in litigation, then we’d have to get outside counsel. I didn’t want to let that potential happen.”

TVA Environmental Executive Anda Ray said the agency plans to abandon its system of wet fly ash storage that was in place when the disaster occurred.

She said TVA plans to convert to a dry system. Harmon would like to see the ash trucked off site to the Midtown landfill.

“We need to get with TVA pretty quickly because Roane County has been damaged,” Harmon said.

There are strong feelings about dumping ash in the landfill.

Some like the idea because of the potential to profit. Others call it a risk that isn’t worth the reward.

When a member of the county’s long-term recovery committee asked Ray about the landfill issue last month, she said no negotiations had taken place with Roane County.

However, she never said they wouldn’t take place in the future.