Opposed landfill moves forward

By Justin Boron

Despite a clear faction of public resistance, Stephens MDS, a company that owns a landfill in northern Clayton County, is pushing forward with its plans to escalate the type of waste placed in a giant hole created by airport blasting.

The company held the first of three required public meetings Wednesday night in Jonesboro in its effort to gain a state permit that allows for construction and demolition waste. The landfill already accepts more innocuous substances like wood, leaves, bricks, concrete, and asphalt.

Less than two miles away, runway construction at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is sewing up.

Representatives of Lawrenceville-based Stephens MDS admitted the landfill would be a convenient location for the disposal of construction waste. The company already provides conveyor service for the dirt used in the runway project, said Bill Hodges, a professional engineer consulting with Stephens MDS.

The meeting Wednesday allowed the landfill owner to advise the citizens of their rights in the matter, which include a negotiation process before the permit is granted.

But public concern for the project did not resonate strongly at a hearing, which was held about 15 miles from the planned location of the landfill in a construction workers' room for the county's transportation and development department.

The location was unclear enough to confuse several citizens and Mark Forsling, the attorney for Stephens MDS.

Dexter Matthews, the president of the local branch of the NAACP, said he suspected the unusual location was intended to hamper the turnout, adding it did not represent the level or resistance to the landfill.

The residents' concern is the most recent controversy coming out of the northern part of the county where airport construction has raised questions about noise, blasting and pollution.

The landfill's history extends as far back as three years ago when it was rezoned amid public contention.

Theresa Crow, long-range planner for the county, said the Clayton County Board of Commissioners approved the landfill in January 2001. It subsequently approved an expansion of the landfill in April 2003.

Residents attending Wednesday's meeting were some of the same people who initially opposed the zoning, illustrating how little success the public has had in affecting the trajectory of the project.

Josie Terry, a Riverdale resident, said local officials did not do enough to stop the landfill.

"I feel the past county commission has sold the citizens of Clayton County out," she said.

While the landfill will not be permitted to hold any hazardous waste material, state provisions allow for asbestos.

But Hodges said the county stipulated the substance could not be placed in the landfill.

Stephens MDS has never owned or operated a landfill before this one.

- News Daily staff writer Greg Gelpi contributed to this article.