More than eight years after then-U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal and business partner Ken Cronan purchased land near their Gainesville auto salvage business, construction plans for a landfill are finally moving forward.
Deal and Cronan bought the Athens Highway property, which sits behind Gainesville Salvage and Disposal, in 2002 and struggled to obtain proper zoning and Environmental Protection Division permits.
Deal was financially invested in the property until 2003.
A quit claim deed dated November 2003 shows Deal gave his share of the property to Cronan, signing away any rights or claim to the land.
Deal and Chris Riley, his campaign manager and former U.S. House chief of staff, were involved in correspondence and meetings with Hall County and Georgia officials through 2008.
Documents show they met with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and state attorney general about the permitting of the landfill and with Hall County officials over the zoning of the property and a road that runs alongside it.
In March 2006, Deal met with EPD officials about the permit. Carol Couch, then-director of the Environmental Protection Division, addressed a letter to Deal about the requirements. An August 2007 application for an EPD permit includes signatures from both Cronan and Deal.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the only reason Deal signed the application is because it included property from Gainesville Salvage and Disposal, which he co-owns with Cronan.
"When Hall County redid the zoning (for the landfill) they redid the Gainesville Salvage and Disposal zoning," Robinson said. "It was all grouped together. When the county sent the paperwork application to get a permit, Gainesville Salvage and Disposal's land was included. Nathan never had a financial interest, even though it looked like he did."
The EPD issued a permit in May, and construction should begin by the end of the year, said project engineer William Hodges of Hodges, Harbin, Newberry & Tribble in Macon.
"Nothing has really happened since May. We're evaluating the recycling equipment and methods to put forth the best project possible," Hodges said Thursday. "Until the equipment is selected, we don't want to move forward with construction."
Cronan didn't return calls Thursday for comment about the project.
The old county landfill on the site, closed in 1983, was operated as a municipal solid-waste facility that accepted household, business and industry waste and doesn't have a sanitary liner. Under a new law, all landfills of this type must be lined.
Cronan's new business, a construction and demolition landfill, would accept Sheetrock, wood, metals, shingles, trees, brush, leaves, glass and plastic - items left from a construction site.
To build a new "green" recycling landfill, however, the EPD required Cronan to build a liner, remove the old waste or create the new landfill in areas that did not previously receive waste. By September 2008, Hodges talked to the EPD about making the new landfill a "green" project that would excavate the old site and recycle items. Any leftover trash would be buried in a lined cell.
"The project started to put a landfill on top of an old landfill and just put a liner on top, but as Cronan became more familiar with the potential of recycling, he made the decision to mine out the old landfill and recycle what's in it," Hodges said. "Clean it up instead of cover it up. We changed the whole process to the point where we're removing the waste and potentially tainted soil and recycling everything we can."
Hodges and Cronan are shopping for recycling equipment such as conveyor belts and grinders that break up the materials in the old landfill for easy identification.
Then wood, concrete, aluminum, steel and other items can be packaged for recycling and shipment.
"It'll help to minimize the need for additional quarries in the state and the number of trucks on the road," Hodges said, indicating that items recycled at the new landfill will be reused in Hall County. "Recycling only really works when used locally because it reduces transportation and air pollution."
Wood that is recycled into chips can be used as a fuel source at local industries or as mulch in local parks, he said.
"Recycling of construction and demolition material is gaining lots of support, and Florida passed a law requiring it," Hodges said. "In the last three years, we've seen a tremendous amount of movement toward recycling in the C&D market as the U.S. moves toward the idea of sustainability and using green products that don't cause harm to the environment."
Cronan and Hodges are ready to move forward with the initial recycling process that will sort the old landfill materials, which under EPD guidelines, must occur during colder months when the smell is less offensive.
"Soon we'll have a pre-construction conference with the state EPD and site development work will begin, such as erosion control and various site monitoring systems for the wells and methane monitoring," Hodges said. "As far as total construction, we haven't decided exactly what comes first because we're still working through the equipment."
Most construction should be near completion by next summer, he said.
"Everything may not be done, but the main facility should be online by then," Hodges said.
Staff writer Melissa Weinman contributed to this report