Commission approves plan for solid waste

COVINGTON - County commissioners have approved the multi-jurisdictional solid waste management plan, which includes the expansion of the Newton County Landfill.

Chairman Aaron Varner said the Department of Community Affairs has approved the document and Tuesday's vote was a housekeeping measure to officially adopt the required plan.

He said there is no timeline for the landfill expansion at this point.

"We're in the planning stages," he said.

The county has filed an application with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for the expansion, which will not increase the property boundary of the landfill but will combine what are now three separate cells, freeing up additional space and increasing capacity by 30 years.

A spokesman with the EPD could not be reached for comment on the status of the application.

The landfill, located on Lower River Road, includes one unlined and one lined cell for household garbage and one unlined construction and demolition cell.

All waste from the unlined cells will be excavated and dumped back into new lining, according to Greg Richardson with Richardson Smith Gardner and Associates Inc., who was hired by the county to evaluate how to improve operations and safety at the landfill.

Liners were not required by the EPD when the household garbage cell was opened in the '70s, Richardson said at a previous public meeting. Also not in place was a requirement of a 200-foot buffer zone between the edge of waste and the landfill property line.

That requirement will be met with the expansion. The waste will not be closer than it is now to residents and will actually be moved 200 feet farther away from those who live west of the landfill, Richardson said.

Residents on and near Lower River Road have been outspoken in their opposition of the expansion, saying they are tired of carrying the burden of waste disposal for the entire county, and they believe their health could be in danger from methane gas emissions. Some have demanded the landfill be closed.

County officials say it's not practical to close or move the landfill, methane emissions are being tracked through a monitoring system and there is no evidence gas has migrated across the street into residents' homes.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.