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County to host public hearing for landfill concerns

By Johnny Jackson

"Everything bad is in Clayton County," said a frustrated Dexter Matthews, the president of the Clayton County Branch of the NAACP. His issue concerns a proposed construction demolition landfill in North Clayton County.

"It's too many homes in that area," he said. "A lot of people are forgetting about this. It's a real environmental hazard for the community."

The landfill is a proposition-four years in the making-by John D. Stephens, Inc., a constructions and equipment company based in Lawrenceville.

The company has proposed to operate a construction demolition landfill and waste processing-recycling facility near its runway construction site at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

"Stephens intends to be a good corporate citizen with residents of the Clayton County area," said Ernie Jones, a spokesman for Stephens. "The company plans to be supportive of the quality of life issues that affect the residents of the area.

"You're talking about the expansion of the airport and all the debris from the airport, and that has to be dealt with. It is a businessman's decision to make about the best use of the property," he said, adding consolation. "The company has to pay a tonnage fee, or host fee, for the use of the land. Hopefully, we'll work with the county commissioners and the community to make sure the community uses these dollars that are separately ear-marked to go to the county and are available for community-based programs."

Jones said the company prefers to make further comment after there is approval or denial of its permit application.

Currently, Stephens is in the application process to obtain two permits for operations on about 159 acres of land, recently acquired property at Flat Shoals and West Lee Mill roads. The company must do this through the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of the Department of Natural Resources.

Jeff Cown is the program manager for the solid waste management program of the EPD.

"We're here to protect human health and environment," he said. "That's our job. We're here to make sure that what (Stephens, Inc.) does meets the requirements to be protective of human environments."

Cown said that his department of engineers received applications for the landfill in 2001 and the larger waste processing-recycling facility in 2003 on the same site. The permits process can be long, he said.

"We look at the geology of the soil, we look at the streams, all those things," Cown said. "There is a tremendous amount of documentation and requirements that they have to complete."

Lee Breedlov, legal representative for the Tri-county Community Association, said he suspected Stephens looked to find a use for the escalated property, from which earth has already been moved to facilitate runway construction at the airport.

He said the county's zoning board rejected a proposal to rezone the 59-acres of land for landfill operations in 2001. But, he said, the county commission approved the request to rezone the area, which might inevitably allow Stephens to operate an inert landfill on the parcel of land near the airport.

Thus began the Facilitating Issues Negotiation (FIN) Process in which nine FIN committee members from the community, county representative, and representatives for Stephens met in three meetings to negotiate whether the landfill was the best use of the land.

Before, citizens made requests that fences be built around the landfill, that protective lining be used to guard against soil contamination, and that there be some sort of construction to beautify the parameter of the landfill to keep property values stable.

The county will host a public hearing concerning the landfill on Monday, Sept. 26, for citizens to voice their concerns about the proposed landfill.

Thereafter, transcripts of the meeting will be sent to EPD and reviewed by its environmental engineers.

"What benefit will come from the landfill?" said Danny Hayes, Chairman of the Tri-county Community Association. "We want to know why the county allowed this to happen.

"We're not looking for anything big to happen, but we just want to come out and express our concerns about the landfill."

Hayes said the North Clayton County community collected nearly 2,000 signatures in a petition to EPD, letting them know of community members' opposition to the landfill.

Breedlov said there is a statutory limit to land use and developing in the county zoning policy, citing a code 1510 the landfill rezoning. He said he intends to bring the point up at the hearing, schedule d to begin between 6:30 and 7 p.m.

This may be the final time for community to express their concerns about the proposed landfill, said Matthews.