After fielding numerous complaints about the smell stemming from the landfill on Old County Dump Road, Hall County has prohibited food waste from the site.
A county review of the landfill — the Gainesville Waste and Recycling Landfill — showed that “food waste has been deemed to be the predominant source of odor from the site” and food waste is “strictly prohibited on this property” going forward.
But food waste was never supposed to end up in the landfill.
According to the county’s findings, the site was originally zoned as a “construction/demolition and inert solid waste landfill” in May of 2002. A 2003 rezoning expanded the site by more than 13 acres that “were left out of the 2002 application.”
According to the report, in January of this year the Georgia Environmental Protection Division gave the landfill a permit to “allow composting of wastewater sludge, partially decomposed waste from original landfill, that is excavated and ash.”
In June, the department permitted the site to compost “food waste from restaurants, grocers and other commercial establishments.”
According to county officials, the county was not aware of the permit until it looked into the rezoning of the adjacent property.
“The only thing that we had was (the property was an) inert landfill and, to us, composting was a part of an inert landfill, like limbs and leaves and all this,” said Tom Oliver, Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman. “I was under the impression if you’re going to bring food in you have to have a totally different landfill.
“I had no idea there was an issue there because I didn’t have any idea they were bringing outside food in. I thought it was inert, which, to me, means bricks and mortar, limbs and trees.”
The EPD’s offices were closed for the day when the report was released.
For weeks, residents have complained about the smell emanating from the property.
“People need to be able to live somewhere where they have fresh air and not the odor, and a lot of people could get sick because of that,” said Faye Bush, executive director of the Newtown Florist Club, a longtime environmental activist group in the community.
Earlier this month, county commissioners voted 3-1 to approve a rezoning that would expand the landfill. Commissioner Ashley Bell opposed.
None of the commissioners could be reached Monday evening.
Gainesville engineering firm Rochester & Associates Inc., on behalf of DOJI Properties LLC, was seeking to rezone the nearly 51-acre tract to create retail/office/industrial outparcels along U.S. 129 and Monroe Drive and to expand adjoining property that includes the landfill and an auto salvage site.
DOJI Properties lists J.A. Walters as its registered agent and 718 Green St., where Walters Management Co. is based, as its principal address, according to the Georgia Secretary of State.
DOJI’s regional impact application with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs cites the project name as Gainesville Salvage Disposal, which sits on property owned by Gov. Nathan Deal and Ken Cronan.
The county’s findings are for the current landfill and will not affect the rezoning approval.
But some residents in the area think the issue shouldn’t stop with the prohibition of food waste, and possible fines or harsher consequences for the landfill’s owners should be an option.
“I’m disappointed,” said Exco Riley, a resident in the area. “That was my question that I posed to the zoning (department) and to the (county) commission on what’s going (into the landfill).
“I think (penalties) ought to be looked into. If you or I dump illegal ... you’ll be maybe warned or fined.”
On top of the prohibition of food waste, the county marshal’s office will conduct random visits to the site, and any private correspondence from the EPD or other governing bodies must be provided to the county.
“I think (the residents in the area) had a legitimate complaint,” said Oliver. “It’s been corrected, which is the best part of it, and I think everything will get back to order.”