Hundreds of people packed the Haralson County Recreation Center on Monday for a Board of Commissioners’ meeting to lobby against a landfill project being considered for the Tallapoosa area.
Scattered throughout the audience people were wearing T-shirts with “No landfill” printed on them, and carrying signs with various statements of opposition to the project. “Save our river,” stated one sign. “Money is not worth the risk,” stated another. Still others simply stated, “No dump.”
Before the public was given the opportunity to speak, assistant county attorney, Avery Jackson, explained the zoning process and noted that the county has not yet received an application, but does expect one.
“Nobody has currently filed an application for any zoning amendment,” Jackson said. “There is no pending action for the county to take at this time.”
Landfills are permitted, regulated and monitored by the state of Georgia, he said. The county can control where a landfill is located — or any other business or residence — through zoning. Most landfills are zoned industrial with a conditional use.
Currently, Haralson County does not have landfills as a permitted use, so Solid Solutions Development, the company reviewing the landfill project, would have to apply to have that use added to the county’s zoning and to have the property it is surveying zoned for that use, Jackson said. That process includes at least two public hearings in which area residents and others will be allowed to speak for and against the change, he said.
Jackson also told the audience that it is his recommendation to the commissioners, in order to remain unbiased, that they not comment on any future applications.
The people took Jackson’s words to heart.
Kelly Hunter, a 2013 transplant to Haralson County, said she had moved to the county searching for a connected community. She found it here, she said.
“I know everybody came here tonight with a lot of questions; we’re getting some of those answered,” she said, then added, “The biggest thing I’ve heard from our lawyer here is … We cannot discuss this with these people sitting right here. If we do, we will jeopardize the direction and the outcome of this.”
But the residents at the meeting wanted the commissioners to know where they stood — staunchly in opposition. Janice Daniel, of Tallapoosa, and her son, Brandon Kerr, talked about the health risks of coal ash — one of the waste items accepted by another landfill previously built by Ernest Kaufmann, vice president of Solid Solutions Development.
“It contains at various concentrations arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, uranium and various others,” Daniel said. “Direct health affects of these toxins can cause major damage to the nervous system, kidneys, brain, bones, cancer in human beings and most importantly birth defects.”
Kerr said that Georgia became a dumping ground for coal ash after state legislators raised the dumping fee for garbage but maintained the fee for coal ash. He doesn’t want to see Haralson County become the recipient of that waste.
“The damage of this landfill could never be reversed,” he said. “If there is monetary gain to the county, it cannot compare to the health and very lives of our citizens and our children.”
Kaufmann has said that he doesn’t plan to accept coal ash or sewage sludge if he develops the Haralson County landfill. However, audience member, Jeff Dewberry pointed out Kaufmann developed another landfill in Georgia that does accept coal ash.
Dewberry said that when Kaufmann built the Meriwether County landfill, it also did not accept coal ash, but that changed after Kaufmann company sold the facility to Waste Management.
“What if this was going on your backyard?” Dewberry asked the commissioners.
After noting that her grandchildren live in the Gold Creek subdivision near the proposed site, Lynn Gramley had a tearful plea to the commissioners.
“Fight for us,” she said her voice cracking with emotion. “Help us. Fight with us. Please, I’m begging you.”
In other business commissioners:
• approved marking all county vehicles with permanent and identical decals bearing a county seal by Aug. 1.
• approved allowing Ely Elefante to use the recreation center to teach self-defense classes through the county Recreation Department. The county has not yet set a fee for the use of the facility.
• approved an ordinance banning engine brakes, also called jake brakes, in the area of U.S. 78 and S. Waco School Road near Waco. Some residents of Waco requested the ordinance because of the loud noise caused by the brakes.