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EPA probes Talmo plant that suffered from fire, odor complaints

Agri-Cycle was shut down in October

POSTED: January 11, 2008 5:04 a.m.

The federal government is investigating a shuttered waste recycling plant where a treatment pond caught fire three months ago.

Agents from the Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal investigation division requested Jackson County’s file on Agri-Cycle two weeks ago, county planning manager Frank Ethridge said.

An EPA spokeswoman declined comment on the matter.

Agri-Cycle was shut down in October after two years of operation when a judge ordered the company to stop accepting waste until it could prove it is not a threat to public health or safety.

Residents had complained for years about the smelly plant and claimed waste from the facility spilled into a nearby creek.

The plant had been closed temporarily by the state Environmental Protection Division when a Sept. 5 fire broke out in a treatment pond and burned through the night.

The file the EPA requested includes documents on the company’s alleged violations of state and local soil erosion ordinances, as well as information on an almost three-year legal battle between Jackson County and Agri-Cycle, said Leslie Hedrick, engineering manager for the county Public Development Department.

The residents of Talmo, a tiny town near a railroad line about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta, have been holding hearings and begging public officials to snuff out the plant for good since it opened.

Earlier this year, Jackson County commissioners filed a lawsuit — which is set to go to court in two months — that claims the plant is misusing a zoning permit.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has taken action, too, arguing in court that the plant repeatedly dumps untreated waste into a nearby creek, has expanded without a permit, and overloaded fields and lagoons used to break down restaurant grease and poultry waste.

The plant’s lawyers have said the plant needs more time to install new filters and other technology that could cut down on the odor.

They said more recent tests have shown the plant has had minimal impact on the creek, and point to internal reports that could prove the plant has cleaned up some groundwater pollutants.



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