Macon landfill in trouble again with state regulators

jgaines@macon.comJuly 5, 2013 

In November 2012, Macon’s city landfill passed state environmental inspection for the first time in years.

Eight months later, the first follow-up inspection dropped the Walker Road Landfill back into noncompliance, with recurring problems garnering a score of 50. A passing score is 80.

On June 20 and 24, environmental specialist Clayton Bristol of the state Environmental Protection Division toured the landfill with coordinators from the city Public Works Department, which oversees the facility. Bristol found that one Public Works employee had made changes in landfill operations without state permission, a “major violation” of the rules, according to a June 26 notice of violation to the city from state Program Manager Scott Henson.

Bristol noted a long list of violations, many of which were repeatedly cited in previous failing reports: inadequate dirt cover, blowing trash, standing water, lots of erosion, and outbreaks of fluid from the decaying garbage.

“Sediment and waste are being washed beyond the landfill boundary,” including into the stream at the dump’s south end, Henson’s letter said. Daily inspection reports from landfill workers didn’t document the consistent problems.

The state asks the city to submit a written explanation and a plan to correct the problems within a “reasonable time frame.”

“We’ve asked that they give us the reason why the landfill has been allowed to deteriorate to that,” Henson said. “What we do next depends on what they say in that letter.”

The city’s response is likely to cite a long period of unusually heavy rain as a major contributor to many of the violations, he said.

“I have a feeling that most landfills are in turmoil right now,” Henson said. “Unless you’re in an area where there’s a lot of sand, it’s hard to work this stuff.”

Public Works Director Richard Powell did not respond to an emailed request for comment this week. But interim Chief Administrative Officer Dale Walker said he’s asked for a report from Powell by July 10.

“We’ve asked Public Works to provide us with information regarding the drop in score, including answers to the questions and next steps to bring the landfill back into compliance,” Walker said via email. “The letter we received does not indicate specific penalties, but we know from previous communications penalties could result.”

In October 2011 the city was hit with a $35,000 fine for landfill violations and ultimately given nearly a year to fix 19 problems. The city put more resources at Powell’s disposal, buying more equipment and supplies, and supplying a detail of state prisoners.

Walker said he sent the state’s latest inspection report on to the Public Works & Engineering Committee of Macon City Council as soon as it arrived, and he expects the committee will discuss it July 9.

Committee Chairman Lonnie Miley said he knows the report includes many drainage issues, and he wants to hear details.

“I have not had a chance to talk to Richard yet to find out how long it’s going to take us to get back into compliance, and what we’re going to do as far as dealing with the problems,” Miley said.

While the failure is dismaying, the city’s previous passing grade came after scores that were even lower, so it should be possible to bounce back, he said.

“I certainly hope we’ll get back into compliance real soon,” Miley said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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