One Sunday in August, Paul Whitmire of Clermont stepped outside his house on the way to church and smelled something suspicious.
He and other neighbors had been smelling waste throughout the summer, and residents along Cleveland Highway believe Hulsey Environmental Services, a waste disposal company that relocated there in May, is to blame.
But that August day was when it peaked, Whitmire said, and he knew he had to do something. He filed a complaint the next day.
“It was a nice day, a low-humidity day, and we didn’t have many of those in the summer. … I even walked over there to the property line and I could smell it, just strong as could be,” Whitmire said.
Hulsey has received four citations for having trucks parked at its facility at 6724 Cleveland Highway in Clermont. When the business received its license in May, one condition was that trucks were not allowed to be parked there.
Attorney Jim Walters, who represents Hulsey, said any trucks that were parked on the property would have been there for a short period of time for light maintenance work such as a flat tire. The trucks in Clermont would have been empty when they arrived on Cleveland Highway, but at one point, they would have been carrying waste or byproducts from one of Hulsey’s clients in North Georgia, Walters said.
Hulsey Environmental Services is owned by John Hulsey, who also operates LHR Farms in Cleveland, which treats septic tank and commercial waste on site. Hulsey Environmental works with several poultry companies to process byproducts, Walters said, and that waste would go to LHR Farms, not the Hulsey site in Clermont.
In 2008, White County residents sued LHR Farms, claiming that odor and pollution from the business were making them sick. Then in 2009, LHR Farms sued White County, claiming that regulations on human waste applications were pre-empted by state legislation.
Walters said Hulsey has not been contributing to any odors residents may be noticing. Neighbors can come to Hulsey at 9 a.m. Wednesday to ask questions and see the facility, he said.
Whitmire, whose 70-acre cattle farm adjoins Hulsey’s Clermont facility, said even if the trucks are empty, he does not want them in his backyard.
“Even though he says these trucks are enclosed, it doesn’t matter,” Whitmire said. “You’re still hauling some kind of waste. … There’s no way you can clean these trucks well enough.”
The Hall County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing and vote Thursday on whether Hulsey can keep its business license.
Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
In an Oct. 19 letter to John Hulsey, Hall’s business license director Susan Rector said trucks parked at the business have been “creating a nuisance situation found to be hurtful and harmful to the adjoining property owners.”
The company had submitted a request to build a truck terminal at the property that would hold up to 10 trucks. The Hall County Planning Commission had been scheduled to vote on that request Oct. 15. Walters, speaking on behalf of the company, said Hulsey wanted to take more time to address nearby residents’ concerns about having trucks on the property.
The application was then tabled until Nov. 5. A large group of Clermont residents had attended the Oct. 15 meeting to voice opposition to the request.
Janet Williams, who owns businesses and lives near the Clermont site, said residents do not object to the business being there — it is the odor and waste that concerns them.
“We don’t object to businesses that are suitable. … The trucks are not the problem, or the freight, it’s what (Hulsey) is carrying,” she said.
But residents are worried about how the trucks could affect them and their properties.
“We want to be good neighbors, and we’re sorry that this has happened. … Our property values will lower, and I’m worried about health,” Williams said.
Srikanth Yamala, the county’s planning director, said that if Hulsey’s business license is revoked, the business owner would have to start the process again by reapplying.