This overhead shot shows the distance between the current landfill and the Etowah River. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRENDA HENDERSON.
‘More issues from failed septic systems than this landfill’
Odor hotline launched
“Stop Trashing Forsyth and the Etowah” and other opponents of the proposed expansion of the Eagle Point Landfill continue to lobby against the project—even launching an odor hotline (770-387-4900) for drivers traveling on Old Federal Road in northwest Forsyth County.
An accident Monday, June 12 between a garbage dump truck and Honda--injuring five, including three children--on Hwy 369 West is another reason the group opposes expansion. "This is the fourth accident involving a garbage truck since May 19," said Brenda Henderson. The estimated 1,000 garbage trucks traveling back and forth to Eagle Point landfill heighten traffic problems that will increase if the landfill is expanded further.
Henderson, a resident of Old Federal Road, urges concerned citizens to attend the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners meeting beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 15 in the county administration bldg. The "Clean Eagle Methane Gas Plant" is listed on the agenda
Opinions differ on landfill expansion
The expansion of Eagle Point Landfill is still undecided but should it come to pass, the Etowah River may not be affected, according to Upper Etowah River Alliance Watershed Director Diane Minick. There are federally mandated preventative measures in place, she told Smoke Signals. The proposed expansion is still undecided but, should it be approved, the Etowah River may not be affected.
“It was constructed in the appropriate manner,” she said. “When it was built, federal law required the landfill have an impervious liner, and it does.”
It also has several other safety measures in place, including pumps (to pump out rain and collected liquids into holding areas where they can be treated) and test pipes (to check gas levels, levels of liquids, and “keep an eye on things down deep in the landfill”), according to Minick.
“There’s a 250’ buffer between it (the landfill) and the river,” she added. “To date, as far as I know, there has never been any leakage into the river.”
The landfill is scrutinized by surrounding counties, she said.
“It’s the most biologically diverse river and watershed in the US,” Minick said. “Lots of people are watching it. There are more issues from failed septic systems than this landfill.”
Waste management is the most regulated industry in regard to pollution control, according to Minick. “The only issue of pollution could be air pollution due to the smell.”
Forsyth County in the middle
Still many remain concerned. Due to its location in Forsyth County, many citizens feel the expansion decision rests with Forsyth County. It does not.
“The expansion of Advanced Disposal is not the product of a recent county zoning action,” Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard said. “The expansion is the product of State Environmental Protection Division (EPD) rules that authorize expansion in certain circumstances. The public hearing on Advanced Disposal’s horizontal expansion is the product of a State statute, O.C.G.A. 12-8-24, which provides:
(2) Prior to the granting of any major modification of an existing solid waste handling permit by the director, a public hearing shall be held by the governing authority of the county or municipality in which the municipal solid waste facility or special solid waste handling facility requesting the modification is located not less than two weeks prior to the issuance of any permit under this Code section and notice of such hearing shall be posted at the site of such facility and advertised in a newspaper of general circulation serving the county or counties in which such facility is located at least 30 days prior to such hearing.
There was no action for the BOC to take following the public hearing. We merely were required to have one.”
Chad Hall of the Industrial and Municipal Solid Waste Unit of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, who is to determine the future of the expansion, was unavailable for comment. His decision is expected June 23.
Supreme Court decides
According to Jarrard, Forsyth County was required by a 1993 Supreme Court decision to issue a special use permit for the landfill. A few years later, the landfill came back to the county seeking confirmation of compliance with the county’s solid waste management plan. This compliance was necessary for the landfill permit to be issued. The county resisted. The landfill sued. The county lost, again, with the trial court directing that the county deliver a letter to the landfill that it complied with the county’s solid waste management plan.
In 1997, Dawson County entered into an agreement with FSL Corporation, who then owned the landfill, according to Dawson County Manager, David Headley.
“That agreement is perpetual and runs with the land no matter who the owner or owners are,” he said. “We are currently in negotiations with the current owner Advanced Disposal to update that agreement.”
The agreement as it exists, states a landfill permit, WILL NOT be requested by Dawson County within a quarter mile of the existing landfill, according to Headley.
“I will confirm at this time the county is not considering any landfill options,” he added. “There have been no ongoing discussions that would do anything elsewhere. I cannot confirm that Dawson County will only use EPL. The agreement does not demonstrate specificity to that location. Eagle Point is the closest facility to Dawson County and our neighbors to the south Forsyth. In addition, our Solid Waste Management Plan does not restrict us to our distribution or location plan.”
Barbara Schneider contributed to this article