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Landfill expansion worries some
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 Despite the county's efforts to calm the fears of residents of Lower River Road that the landfill does not pose a health threat, some people still have concerns.

To respond to those concerns, a second public information meeting on the expansion of the Lower River Road Landfill will be held at 7 p.m. on April 14 at the Historic Courthouse. The county's landfill consultants, Richardson, Smith, Gardner & Associates, will be in attendance along with the Newton County Board of Commissioners.

At the meeting the landfill consultants and the BOC will give attendees an overview of their plans to expand the landfill's capacity and will take questions from the audience. This will be the second public information session on the matter held by the BOC. The first meeting, held on March 20 was not well-attended.

The county plans to submit an application for a Solid Waste Handling Permit to the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to increase the room available for waste disposal at the landfill, according to a press release from County Chairman Aaron Varner.

At the March 20 meeting, the BOC approved a proposal to expand the landfill by filling in unoccupied space between the existing four waste sites. According to the proposal, the expansion will not push waste toward the private homes across the street but will actually shift the waste slightly away. There will be no new land purchases with the proposal.

The county plans to shift all waste into a single large landfill lined with several feet of compacted clay and a high-density polyethylene material. The combined effect of the liner and clay is expected make it very difficult for any methane gas to leave the site. Of the 88 acres currently permitted for waste disposal, 14 have been used without a liner system while 37 are currently used with a liner system.

Methane is a greenhouse gas formed as a byproduct of the decomposition process and can be explosive if high concentrations of it are reached in an enclosed space.

A recent testing of methane levels by a geologist with Georgia Environmental & Management Services Inc. revealed that methane had reached Lower Explosive Level limits at several points around the landfill.

Robert Krasko, the geologist who performed the inspection, said in a previous interview that the methane levels did not pose an imminent health risk to people living or working in the vicinity of the landfill. Corrective actions have been taken to lower methane levels at the landfill, he said.

Approximately 20 residents of Lower River Road attended the Tuesday night BOC meeting to protest the expansion of the landfill and to air concerns about methane levels at the landfill.

"We're worried about the monitoring of everything down there," said Lower River Road resident Harold Lesley to the BOC. "We just want you to know we're not happy campers about it. Our property values are getting smashed."

According to Krasko, though LEL levels of methane were detected beyond the fence line of the landfill, the topology of the land keeps methane from drifting across the street

One of the requests by residents on Lower River Road is for the county to test for methane across the street near their homes.

"The stench is getting unbearable," said Forrest Sawyer, another resident of Lower River Road. "The landfill is getting worse. The neighborhood is just garbage. You see garbage everywhere."

Responding to comments from the audience Varner said, "There's misinformation that's been said here. Ya'll are hearing stuff that is not true. Anytime you have a landfill, you have methane. We are not expanding [the landfill] out, we are trying to make it more efficient."