Bremen City Council members heard a presentation Monday from a company looking at 2,200-acres in the Tallapoosa area for a potential landfill.
A couple of dozen area residents, some who have attended Haralson County Commission meetings to oppose the project, crowded into the municipal courtroom that is also the Council’s meeting site to attend the work session.
“You’ve taken us by surprise,” said Mayor Sharon Sewell after she invited those standing in the back to grab one of the chairs stacked up along the wall and place it so they could see the meeting and maintain their social distance from others.
The meeting was advertised as a work session to allow the council members to learn about the potential project so that they could speak knowledgeably about it to their constituents, Sewell said.
“This is not a public forum. I will not listen to any opinions,” Sewell said. “This is a time to get information and ask questions.”
She did however allow the residents to ask questions after the council members had asked theirs.
Ernest Kaufmann, vice president of business development for Solid Solutions Development, said the company should finish testing the acreage in Tallapoosa about a mile from the Interstate 20 exit in couple of weeks. Once it is complete, they will know if the property will suit their plans, he said. If the company decides the site meets all the qualifications, then it will apply for permitting probably in August, Kaufmann said.
The company hopes to build a 300-acre landfill on the site. The rest of the 2,200 acres would serve as a buffer from other property owners or possibly could be used as an industrial park, he said. The project would take about 18 months to build.
The landfill would be built in cells, each about 10 acres, said Clint Courson, environmental scientist working with the company. The waste is covered daily, which helps to control the smell, Courson said. Then, once each cell is full, it would be closed by covering with a plastic liner, clay, soil and vegetation. It would be monitored for leachate — rainwater that runs through the waste and collects on a liner under the trash. That leachate would be gathered and sent to a water processing plant for cleaning. Methane created as the waste breaks down, can be burned off, he said.
Even after closure, the landfill will be monitored as required by state and federal law for 30 years. The company is required to pay a deposit each year to ensure that the site will be monitored, he said.
The landfill is a needed project, Kaufmann said. His company built the landfill in Meriwether County and it was the first landfill built in the state in years, he said.
“There hadn’t been a facility permitted in Georgia for nine years when I did that facility,” Kaufmann said. “There hasn’t been another one since.”
The area needs more space for its trash, he said.
Haralson County doesn’t currently have a landfill, Sewell said. It has a transfer station where the trash is collected for shipping to a landfill, she said. The county’s trash is taken to a Polk County landfill.
A landfill in the county would save local residents in dumping fees and the landfill also would participate in county clean up days twice a year and set up a hazardous waste collection for residents to get rid of things like extra paint, Kaufmann said. The community could also potentially benefit from the industrial park, if that’s what the county decides it wants in the buffer, he said.
“We want to be a part of your community,” Kaufmann said.
Kaufmann even gave out his phone number to those gathered saying they could call him for information. He also said there would be a Citizens Advisory Committee created of city and county residents who will meet monthly to discuss the progress of the landfill.
The process of building a landfill is an open development requiring at least three public hearings for area residents to have all their questions answered and concerns heard.
“We ask that those people not be open supporters of it,” he said. “We want people to question. We want people to ask why.”
That helps the company create the best facility possible for the community, Kaufmann said.
Additionally, the company would negotiate a contract with the county to include a county host fee, usually $2.50 a ton, and a municipal host fee that would be split among the cities, usually about $1 to $1.50 a ton. That could mean millions of dollars for the cities and county over the life of the dump. The agreement would also specify the types of garbage accepted, Kaufmann said. The facility will not take coal ash or sewer sludge because they are too unstable, and will not take out-of-state waste, he said.
“We design and build facilities that are compatible with the community,” Kaufmann said.
But local residents didn’t believe him. The Meriwether landfill, which he built and then sold, takes coal ash, one resident noted.
That was changed after he sold the facility, Kaufmann said. The County Commission had to go through the whole process again to make those changes, he added.
That facility is now owned by Waste Management. Kaufmann builds the facilities and then often sells them to other companies to manage. But those buyers would be subject to the agreements that he negotiates with the community, Kaufmann said.
The company has built landfills in areas including Alabama, New Mexico, Guam and the one in Meriwether. He invited anyone who is interested to visit the Meriwether facility to get an idea what a landfill in Haralson County would look like.
People asked a variety of questions, some of them designed to point out difficulties the landfill would create for the county. Kaufmann answered them all.
The landfill would be open approximately 25 to 32 years, and would serve an area in Georgia that would stretch about 50 miles around the landfill, he said. No waste would come from out of state, even though the county is on the Georgia-Alabama state line. It would operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The amount of trash accepted each day would build over the years. At it’s peak, he expects trucks about every five minutes, Kaufmann said.
It is up to the county and cities what they do with the host fees, but Kaufmann suggests using it for infrastructure. He doesn’t know of any fines of any landfills that he owns. Landfills can get fines for a number of reasons including dead grass or grass not being cut, that have nothing to do with the safety of the community, Kaufmann said. He is confident in the liners that are used in today’s landfills and the landfill records all the waste it accepts.
The landfill would abide by all Environmental Protection District guidelines in siting and operating the landfill, he said. To protect nearby property owners, the company has a program to make up the difference between the selling price of a property and its appraised price if the landfill affects the selling price. So far, no one has collected on that program, Kaufmann said.
The next scheduled meeting of the Bremen City Council is July 20.