Waste Management has applied for a permit to sink a well more than 4,000 feet into the ground in order to dispose of water that leaches from the material in Springhill Landfill near Campbellton. Currently, the company collects that wastewater into holding tanks, then takes it by tanker truck it to wastewater treatment facilities in Sneads, Marianna and Okaloosa County for treatment and release to sprayfields or other endpoints.

The cost of that transport, company officials say, and the worry that the municipalities could start rejecting the leachate water because of increasingly stringent regulations regarding its treatment, are some of the factors going into the decision to try the alternative at a cost of roughly $5 million.

Company officials say that initial plans, and into the foreseeable future, are to use it only for the leachate generated at Springhill but that Waste Management wants to leave open the possibility that, in the future, a permit modification could be sought to use it for wastewater generated at other facilities.

A public hearing on the first phase of the well plan—to drill it for exploration purposes only---was held last week at the Graceville Civic Center. If that permit is granted, the next step would be to seek a permit to use it for its purpose if the exploratory stage shows that the well and its location are appropriate for the disposal. That new permit would necessitate its own public hearing.

Only one person other than company officials and representatives of governmental agencies, including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, attended the Tuesday hearing. The meeting was noticed once five weeks ago in the Jackson County Floridan classified section, and well as in the Florida Administrative Register and on DEP's online public meeting calendar.

Public comment was taken in the five week period between the notice and the meeting, with one phone call and one e-mail inquiry noted in that time.

The well must receive a permit to be installed and another to start receiving the leachate generated at Springhill. If permitted it will be sunk near the holding tanks in a process that should take about nine months. The DEP could issue a permit to proceed with the well as an exploratory device as soon as today, but a DEP official at the meeting indicated it might be a week.

A consultant for Waste Management-- Tom Kwader of AECOM--and a DEP official were the only speakers. Both explained some of the elements of the well and the process that will take place from here.