Forsyth County, local landfill reach expansion agreement
Forsyth County Commissioners have reached an expansion agreement with Eagle Point Landfill in northeast Forsyth. - photo by Jim Dean

A new agreement between Forsyth County and a local landfill could clear the way for the latter’s expansion.

Forsyth County Commissioners voted 4-0, with the District 2 seat vacant, on Tuesday to approve a memorandum of understanding with Advance Disposal Services, owner of the Eagle Point Landfill in northeast Forsyth. 

“This actually sort of fundamentally changes our relationship with the landfill on a variety of fronts,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

Though not official until passed as part of a regular meeting’s consent agenda, the action would give the county’s legal approval for the expansion, which was the product of meetings with the county, landfill and nearby residents.

In recent months, the landfill’s plans for expansion, which still needs to be approved by the state’s Environmental Protection Division rather than the county’s zoning process, has been controversial to those living nearby.

“[All those issues] at the same time, I think, got a lot of the citizens in that area very, very concerned,” Jarrard said. “It at least gave them a platform to express their grievances not only to the county but to Advance Disposal, the EPD and has caused this perfect storm.”

A methane conversion plant, which the landfill company has said is a separate issue, could not move ahead until after the agreement’s approval. 

Jarrard said much of the agreement would seek to smooth out neighbors’ issues.

Under the agreement, the landfill could not expand past the footprint of a 1993 agreement.

The county will receive 10 cents per cubic yard of additional space for the expansion starting 90 days after receiving the permit. Jarrard said the landfill expects the 20 million-25 million cubic yards for the expansion, meaning $2 million-$2.5 million in revenue for the county.

The agreement will also require the landfill to pay the county $1.50 for each ton of waste.  The county currently receives $1 per ton of commercial demolition waste, debris from construction, and $1.25 per ton for municipal solid waste, everyday items.

In 2028, the county will begin receiving $2 per ton and would increase at the same ratio as any change to the state minimum fee. 

The county will also have access to security footage of the landfill’s scales where trucks are weighed — which will be streamed live to the county’s office — will be able to do audits of the landfill’s books and the landfill will have guaranteed space for the county’s waste. 

“Right now, we have no guaranteed space whatsoever,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who represents the area. “They could fill up with Cobb County’s trash, and other than signing our solid waste plan, we have no guarantee of having space for our own county’s trash.”

The agreement will also have several new ways to help with neighbors’ concerns, including a program to release a mist to cover odors, testing groundwater and creating a website for neighbor alerts and to host meetings for neighbors.

“This is basically a conduit of information between the landfill and the stakeholders,” Jarrard said. 

The agreement will also attempt to remedy some issues caused by trucks hauling garbage by requiring they wash the mud off tires and make sure tarps are covering the backs of trucks to reduce trash blowing out. 

Another worry for neighbors was the landfill being used to store coal or fly ash (a coal combustion product) and the potential for water carrying them to reach the nearby Etowah River. 

“This is a big, big, big issue that we didn’t even know existed until this all came up,” Mills said. “I know several of us went to the public hearing that night and we saw what a big issue it really was.”

Lynette Wilier with Stop Trashing Forsyth and the Etowah River said the group had had several meetings with commissioners but had not yet had the chance to go over the agreement.

 “We just received it today, so we haven’t had a chance to review it completely,” she said. “Our organization is going to meet and look at it, and we also are going to have our lawyer look at it, but it is really between the county and the landfill.”