Opposition to landfill grows - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Opposition to landfill grows

By Zaneta Lowe  - bio | email 

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - One week from today, residents in Russell County have a chance to voice their opinion on a proposed construction and demolition landfill.

News Leader 9 first brought you details on the story late last year, and over time, the controversy has continued to grow.

"We are tired of that, dumping everything on us, we want it to stop," says Mel Long.

Long, a business owner in Phenix City, has been speaking out about the proposed construction and demolition landfill in Russell County.

There are signs posted outside his barber shop on South Seale Road.  Now, that voice of opposition is growing louder.

"Construction and demolition landfills located in sandy soil near water are very dangerous to public health," says Chattahoochee Valley River Warden Executive Director Roger Martin.

His group has recently posted ads on several billboards in the area, some even featuring skulls and bones.

A strong message, one they've even expressed in a recent meeting with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.

"The dangers, basically public health, of hydrogen sulfide gas and the smells that come with that and the clouds and dust," explains Martin about the health concerns.

Plus, Martin says long term, there's major concern for communities downstream, like Eufaula and Dothan.

"As the materials decompose in the landfill, those nutrients will follow those pathways into the drinking water of the river and also to the groundwater."

The Concrete Company is the group attempting to get the permit to construct the landfill.  It's a total of 204 acres located along Brickyard Road, or County Road 61.  Right now, much are the potential area is filled with water.  That will eventually be pumped and lined with clay before debris goes in.

"We feel this is really almost more of a recycling process because we have taken sand and gravel out of the ground, this has gone into for example, concrete and a big part of what comes back from construction and demolition is concrete, says The Concrete Company Vice President Hugh Sorrell.

I asked Sorrell about the environmental concerns.  "We think those things are up to state agencies to regulate, whatever they tell us we have to do, then we're going to do it, we're not going to hide things, or not do things because we would be shut down immediately."

Peggy Martin is the Chair of the Russell County Commission.

She addressed the fact that there's been talk in the community about the landfill being more of a business decision.

"We need the revenue, if there's something or some industry, that can help us with increasing revenue, but another side of it is we need to look at the environmental issue," says Martin.

An issue commissioners like Martin will hear plenty about, prior to and during the upcoming public hearing.

That public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. on February 7th.  According to Peggy Martin, only one speaker from the "for" and "against" side will be allowed to speak.  Each will have 20 minutes, then there will be a 10 minute question and answer session.

Commissioners could make a decision as early as February 9th.

After that, the proposal would go to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.  Sorrell says even if ADEM approves its request for a permit, it could take up to another two years before the landfill would be complete.

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