ATLANTA — This year, landfill foes probably can continue to use an obscure law to argue against expansion of garbage dumps in Middle Georgia. A state House panel, in front of a dozen or so midstate activists, has voted to table discussion of the law.
The fight is about an old, unenforced Georgia code that says landfills located above sensitive areas of aquifers cannot accept out-of-state garbage. That covers most of all the counties below the fall line from Columbus to Augusta. Limiting those dumps to local garbage would mean they’d stay relatively small.
Residents from Bibb, Twiggs, Washington, Monroe and Lamar counties testified to the Resource Management Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee that they’d like their landfills to stay that way: small. They fear garbage ooze will eventually leak through landfill liners and poison the aquifer below. In Washington and Twiggs counties, activists recently have dusted off the old code to fight possible expansions in their counties.
“It is very clear the purpose of the law was to restrict size,” said Johnny Poore, who runs Lamar County’s landfill and keeps it relatively small by digging out recyclables, compacting and burning methane for energy.
However, the state cannot enforce the law as it’s written, emphasized Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Allen Barnes. Both a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and a Georgia court case settlement say state laws cannot hinder cross-state trade in garbage. The EPD wants the current law to go. If the House or anyone wants to discuss different environmental protection or landfill sighting rules, “that’s a different bill,” Barnes concluded.
The repeal, via Senate Bill 110, was authored by Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, who does not represent any significant aquifer recharge area.The voice vote to table the bill does not kill it. Until next spring, it’s still alive and the subcommittee can decide to reopen hearings. However, with only five working days, including Wednesday, left in this year’s regular legislative session, any more immediate movement looks unlikely.
Water pollution relaxation goes through Senate panel
Road builders will get two free warnings from a state inspector before any chance at a fine for erosion and sedimentation pollution under a bill approved by the Senate Transportation Committee.
Then if a fine for polluting water with dirt is issued, the Georgia Department of Transportation or its subcontractors can haul the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to a mediator. That mediator is a newly reconstituted Erosion and Sedimentation Control Overview Council.The revived council would have seven members, five of whom are appointed by the governor.
Currently, EPD inspectors can issue corrective orders and set a deadline at their discretion. Time limits as little as 48 hours are not uncommon.Similar provisions died in a House bill earlier this session. They were added as amendments to a relatively uncontroversial House Bill 137.
HB 137 already has passed the House. If it makes it onto the Senate floor, a conference committee will have to negotiate the differences.