January 11, 2024
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LRS Drops Plan to Purchase NABORS Landfill

Lakeshore Recycling Systems (LRS) has withdrawn its offer to purchase the NABORS landfill. The Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District Board (OMSWD) announced at its December 5, 2023 meeting in Harrison that the Board had received a request from LRS to withdraw from the purchase agreement and to be refunded its deposit funds from escrow. The LRS request for withdrawal received unanimous OMSWD board approval. This is a tremendous victory for the Twin Lakes Region because LRS's plan was to reopen the landfill for more trash, which would have added to an already significant environmental problem that has plagued the landfill for over 20 years. Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers (Friends) were contacted by Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams in November 2022 regarding the proposed purchase of the landfill by LRS. An initial meeting took place in Mayor Adams' office to determine the status of the proposed sale. An undated purchase agreement was thought to have been signed in June or July 2022, with a target closing by December 31, 2022. However, the contract required significant due diligence and pre-closing contingencies, which caused the closing to be postponed until mid 2023. A team of local citizens was formed and a plan was developed to create public awareness, retain legal counsel, raise funds, and engage with state and local legislators to begin fighting the potential reopening of the landfill.

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NABORS landfill when it was operating – picture courtesy of Baxter Bulletin

The landfill lies about six miles north of Mountain Home in the Three Brothers area.  The property is approximately 700 acres in total, with 55 acres representing the landfill.  Its topography and geology have been surveyed and confirmed numerous times as "karst", with characteristic significant underground water flow, including fourteen confirmed springs on the site.  Small feeder streams near the site flow southwest to Bull Shoals Lake and south and southeast to Norfork Lake.  The landfill had been closed to new trash in 2012, covered with soil and impermeable green synthetic turf, then certified closed by an engineering firm according to EPA requirements in 2020.The landfill was closed because of significant groundwater contamination and noncompliance with Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations.  The operation was financially unfeasible and ultimately went into bankruptcy.  Approximately 30,000 gallons of contaminated water (leachate) is collected monthly from the site. It contains high levels of heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, arsenic, thallium, manganese and iron, as well as high levels of cancer-causing organic compounds such as benzene, vinyl chloride and trichloroethene. This leachate is transported to Springfield, Missouri for disposal.

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Leachate collection system

Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes are the drinking water sources for tens of thousands in the Twin Lakes region.  These same lakes and tailwaters are the major economic driver of this region for fishing, boating and recreating.  Allowing the landfill to reopen was not an environmentally acceptable option.

In January of 2023, Friends retained the legal services of Richard Mays, one of Arkansas' most experienced and respected environmental attorneys.  Sam Cooke, past president of Friends, became the leader of Friends' efforts to prevent the reopening of the landfill. Sam researched DEQ regulations relating to municipal solid waste facilities, specifically those in relation to the reopening of closed landfills. With the assistance of attorney Mays, the Nabors team developed strategies to work with city and county elected officials based on Arkansas laws and regulations.

Mayor Adams presented a resolution to the Mountain Home City Council voicing opposition to the reopening of the landfill, and Baxter County Judge Kevin Litty followed with a Quorum Court resolution against any reopening or expansion of the landfill. Baxter County then passed an ordinance, drafted by attorney Mays, prohibiting the reopening of an existing landfill or the opening of any new landfills in Baxter County.

In April of 2023, State Senator Scott Flippo and Representative Stetson Painter helped pass legislation sponsored by State Representative Jeff Wardlaw which governs the sale of a closed landfill. It was signed into law as Act 833 by Governor Sanders.  Act 833 requires:
  • Reimbursement of all landfill closure and post-closure expenditures by the buyer prior to sale and reopening of a landfill
  • Obtaining a certificate of need
  • Conducting  a minimum of one public hearing
  • Possible modification of any existing permits
The total closure and post-closure costs for NABORS are estimated at over $25,000,000. Thus, Act 833 is a significant roadblock to the reopening of this landfill, and most certainly was a factor in LRS's decision to withdraw its offer. Another factor could be that LRS finally accepted the karst definition for the area's geology and topography, a designation that makes it highly undesirable for a landfill. A third reason, and perhaps the most critical, was the tremendous pushback from our collective community groups determined to prevent NABORS landfill from reopening.

The withdrawal by LRS from the potential purchase of NABORS landfill is a major win in the fight to prevent the landfill from reopening.  However, it is not the end of the battle.

NABORS landfill still remains classified by DEQ as "open", with one active permit.  Our objective is for the OMSWD board to request DEQ to officially close NABORS landfill and cancel the open permit.  This hopefully will make the reopening of the landfill extremely difficult because it will require applying for a new permit.  A new permit would require all environmental impact studies, which would again highlight the karst geology underlying the site.

A letter is being prepared by Richard Mays for the OMSWD board to request that DEQ officially close NABORS landfill and cancel the active permit. Friends continue to incur legal expenses in this fight.  We ask for your help in covering those costs by becoming a Friends member or making a tax-deductible donation. Either is quick and easy on our website:

We are continuing this effort and will keep you updated on future progress.
Thank you for all your support.

Steve Blumreich
President, Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers