The Hall County Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved Gainesville Waste and Recycling’s excavating part of the landfill on Old Athens Highway and its plan to control odor.
Odor from the GWAR landfill was the subject of many complaints last year when the landfill was composting food waste, which was approved by the state Environmental Protection Division, but not zoned for that operation by the county.
Speakers on the issue didn’t necessarily oppose the agenda item, but did raise concerns about hazardous material and the transportation of waste from the landfill. The county has the Allen Creek landfill that can take household waste, but there are other facilities that can take hazardous waste
Gainesville resident Terry Kuehn said he was chairman of a committee called the Love Canal agency and didn’t want the county to make similar mistakes. The Love Canal in New York was the dumping site of chemical material in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Twenty years later, the drums started to come up, the young kids were affected by it,” Kuehn said. “Those are things you must consider.”
This landfill is owned by Ken Cronan, a business partner of Gov. Nathan Deal.
The site was a county landfill that was closed around 1984, County Engineer Kevin McInturff has said.
Cronan received his initial permit for the landfill in 2010 and received modifications to EPD permits to compost waste and then compost food waste in late 2011 and early 2012.
Former Board Chairman Tom Oliver wrote two letters to EPD that said the proposed composting complied with local zoning, land use ordinances and the county’s Solid Waste Management Plan.
The commission approved sending a clarifying letter to EPD in December.
The Rev. Eddie Walker said Thursday the commission should communicate more with the community about issues like this, which could affect residents living nearby. He suggested sending letters out when issues such as this are being considered by the county.
“Once you start stirring in the landfill, I don’t know where you can guarantee that something is not going to happen,” Walker said. “We need some information coming out before something like this happens. We have some important poor people. And we are important, we need to know what’s going on.”
The landfill is in District 4, represented by Commissioner Jeff Stowe. He said there will be a lot of oversight, including the EPD and the county engineer and county Marshal’s Office.
“We’ve got a lot of controls in place,” Stowe said. “I think we do have the ultimate control if the problem is going to be a permanent problem and going to continue, it sounds like from our staff we have the ability to shut that down and to have them fill back over what they’ve been mining and control that odor.”
Clint Courson, environmental scientist with consulting firm Hodges, Harbin, Newberry & Tribble Inc., said GWAR would start with a small pilot program and the waste would be scanned and hauled to appropriate sites.
Documentation would be given to the county and EPD.
The odor mitigation plan approved by the commission has six steps, including using a daily cover of soil or tarp. If there’s a major odor, the steps require reducing the size of the working area, re-covering the waste until other methods of excavation can reduce the odor, delaying work until there’s favorable weather conditions and using chemicals to mask the odor.
Andre Niles, captain of the county Marshal’s Office, said he was at the landfill almost every day and it was very clean. It composts construction, demolition and inert waste.
“The attention that was brought to the landfill, it helped make that landfill probably one of the best around,” Niles said. “Because now all eyes are on it.”
The county has an email system that notifies residents of county issues and provides meeting agendas to subscribers. But Walker said not everyone has email addresses and Internet access.
Board Chairman Richard Mecum said letters to residents in cases like this are financially feasible. It’s not clear if letters will be sent about the work expected at the landfill.