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Residents give input on new rules for landfills

For months, discussions have been held on issues surrounding a northwest Forsyth County landfill and its future plans. Last week, several neighbors gave their input on a new ordinance being proposed for landfills in the county.

On Thursday, Forsyth County Commissioners held the public hearing for an ordinance to ban coal ash — a byproduct of burnt coal — and dealing with how leachate — water that has gone through a solid and absorbed some of its contents — can be distributed.  

“[This] ordinance would ban the introduction of coal combustion residuals, or CCRSs, and the spraying, misting and/or aerosolizing of leachate, treated or untreated, into or on any solid waste disposal facility in Forsyth County,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

The meeting was the first public hearing on the ordinance, and another will be held in February.

While many of the evening’s speakers approved of parts of the plan, especially the ban on coal ash, they were also against leachate evaporating, which is not banned under the ordinance.

“We would really like to see a ban on leachate evaporators added to the ordinance or, at the very least, we would like to see some sort of rigorous air quality monitoring established to provide some oversight for that leachate evaporator,” said Lynette Wilier with Stop Trashing Forsyth and the Etowah River

Others shared their experience dealing with smells coming from Advanced Disposal’s Eagle Point Landfill on Old Federal Road and their concerns that hazardous materials could leak into the nearby Etowah River.

“[A concern] is the potential for contaminating the Etowah River,” said speaker Bruce Urtz. “If the Etowah gets polluted, not only does it have the potential to affect the fish and other aquatic wildlife but it has the potential to affect people’s drinking water, particularly in Cherokee County.”

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said it had been a lengthy process learning the issues surrounding the landfill’s planned expansion and concerns of residents.

“I’m glad that we’re to this point. We want to get it right, but we want to do what is best for the environment as a whole, and that includes the people,” she said. “We’ve went through a lot of effort through this to try to get it right, and we’re not stopping until we feel like we’ve got it to that point. 

Added Mills: “But, we do have to rely on people that have greater education in this than we do, and we’ve hired environmental attorneys, we’ve hired environmental companies, we’ve now got a second environmental company coming in.”

Mills said at the meeting the county is also planning to hire an environmental engineer. She read comments from a member of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division that said the agency did not detect odors from the landfill when recently checking at several surrounding neighborhoods.

Jarrard said the ordinance came from discussions regarding a memorandum of understanding between the county and Advanced Disposal, which was approved on Dec. 7.

Another issue between the landfill and neighbors is a proposed methane conversion plant, which residents have opposed. The plant has not been approved.