Old landfill not safe, too costly for recreation

COVINGTON - The city's old landfill may not be an ideal recreation spot to complement the planned Nelson Heights Community Center, Safety Director John Copeland told the City Council on Monday night.

The property is a potential safety hazard and could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to mitigate, Copeland reported.

County Commissioner J.C. Henderson had hoped the property could be used as a baseball or football field or passive greenspace for children who frequent the community center, which will be constructed at the corner of Laseter and Puckett streets.

The property and community center site are separated by The Rising Son Christian Church.

The unlined landfill has been abandoned for 35 to 40 years, according to Greg Shy, a lifelong resident of Nelson Heights.

Henderson requested that environmental testing be conducted to determine if the site was safe for use.

Copeland said the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has no regulatory authority over the landfill because it is so old, and the city is not legally required to test the soil.

However, if the soil is tested and hazardous material is found, the city would be required to report to the EPD and would be responsible for cleanup, he said.

After walking the site, Denny Dobbs with Dobbs Environmental said it would be cost prohibitive for the city to use the property for recreation.

In order to test the site for hazardous material, Dobbs said at least five monitoring holes would have to be drilled at a cost of $5,000 per hole.

In addition, the property would need to be covered with between 3 and 5 feet of topsoil, which would cost an additional $80,0000 to $100,000.

If hazardous material is found, the city might have to spend hundreds of thousands more dollars on environmental cleanup, Copeland said.

The additional topsoil recommended by Dobbs would be a minimum requirement, since metal and building materials are jutting out of the soil, he said.

"I would shudder to think what would happen if a kid goes sliding into third" (and hit a piece of metal), he said.

"We're all for recreation for kids in the community, but at some time, what if we find out something that costs $1 million to correct?" Mayor Kim Carter added.

Shy, the Nelson Heights resident, recommended the property be fenced off to keep children away.

Though Carter said fencing could be very expensive, Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams supported the suggestion.

"This is going to come back to haunt us if we don't do something now with the information that we have," she said.

City Manager Steve Horton asked Copeland to examine options and report back to the council at its Tuesday meeting.