Macon-Bibb landfill passes latest state inspection

Improvement marks second passing grade since late 2012

jgaines@macon.comJuly 3, 2014 

The Macon-Bibb County landfill has passed state environmental inspection for just the second time in two years, officials said Thursday.

Clayton Bristol, environmental specialist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, inspected the Walker Road landfill on Wednesday, a follow-up to the Jan. 23 review that cost the local government a $50,000 fine.

Bristol’s report and an official score won’t be written up until next week, but DNR District Manager Todd Bethune confirmed that Bristol gave the landfill a passing grade.

The landfill has been troubled for years, and Bristol’s January inspection found multiple violations that were holdovers from earlier reports. Problems included exposed garbage, standing water, lack of grass, poor grading and garbage washing into the stream on the south side of the landfill. Bristol also noted a lack of daily documentation from landfill workers.

Chronic problems found in an October 2011 inspection drew a $35,000 state fine. The facility last passed a regular inspection, which occurs roughly every six months, in November 2012.

The penalty for January’s failure was originally $70,000, which Macon-Bibb officials asked to be substantially reduced.

Bethune’s April 23 reply said the state couldn’t go that far, “based on the compliance history of the facility,” but agreed to cut it to $50,000.

By that time, however, the management structure for the landfill was changing. In the follow-up to city-county government consolidation, the Solid Waste Division in April was split off from Public Works to become its own department. Kevin Barkley, formerly in charge of Solid Waste for Griffin, became the new department’s director April 21.

And higher-ranking officials, including County Manager Dale Walker and Assistant County Manager Steve Layson, promised to direct whatever resources were needed to the landfill in order to get it in shape for the next inspection.

“It was a joint effort, I tell you that,” Barkley said Thursday. “Everyone pitched in from Public Works, Parks and Beautification, Purchasing, planning and budget, Facilities Management and fleet services keeping our equipment going.”

Regular landfill workers put in lots of mandatory overtime to fix problems on top of doing their regular operations, he said.

Barkley said when he arrived, he talked to supervisors and equipment operators to help develop a corrective plan. First, they focused on covering exposed garbage where dirt and grass had eroded in frequent rain, building berms partway up the long slopes to slow down runoff, he said.

“We concentrated on that until we could get some other supplies and resources in place,” Barkley said.

Once grass was growing through special erosion-resistant matting, regular procedures could be used and work moved on around the mound, he said.

Barkley said getting the landfill in consistently good shape will allow the department to concentrate on an overall waste management plan that emphasizes recycling and other environmentally friendly initiatives.

“We’re looking forward to maintaining it, getting it out of what I call the repair mode and into the maintenance mode,” he said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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