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Methane levels still concern residents
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 After three public hearings and two Newton County Board of Commissioner meetings, residents of Lower River Road continue to raise concerns about the proposed expansion of the county landfill.

The proposed expansion would fill in unoccupied space between four existing waste sites at the landfill. The expansion will not move waste closer to the private residences on Lower River Road, but shift it slightly away.

 Under the proposal, all waste will now be located in a lined landfill. Two waste sites are currently unlined.

At the Tuesday night meeting of the BOC, District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson made a motion for every house on Lower River Road and every house in the Spring Hill neighborhood to have methane monitors installed.

Henderson's motion was seconded by District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons but failed by a vote of 2-3.

"I would hope that our government would look out for us, have our back and they haven't," Henderson said.

Henderson said he was concerned methane, an odorless, tasteless, colorless, inflammable gas created as a byproduct of the decomposition process, was crossing the road from the landfill and might be present in some of the residences.

According to a March report on methane levels at the landfill by Robert Krasko, a geologist with Georgia Environmental & Management Services Inc., methane was found at Lower Explosive Limits slightly beyond the fence line of the landfill. However, the geological conditions of the area were keeping the gas from migrating across the street to the residences Krasko said.

District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said he didn't feel Henderson's motion should have been brought forward without the board's prior awareness. Ewing observed that a two-hour and 45 minute public hearing had taken place the night before where consultants working on the proposed expansion briefed attendees on the county's plans for the landfill.

Ewing said any residents who were concerned about the methane were invited to submit their names to County Attorney Tommy Craig to have their houses tested for the gas. Three people submitted their names at the Monday night meeting, Ewing said.

Lower River Road resident Charles Wayne Johnson attended both meetings on Monday and Tuesday and said he still had strong concerns about the landfill.

"There are people that have legitimate concerns about their health," Johnson said, adding that no one from the county, to his knowledge, had ever talked with residents of Lower River Road to find out if there were experiencing any health problems resulting from the landfill

In his experience, Krasko said he has never heard of a local government taking the step of installing methane monitors in the homes of residents that live near landfills.

"I don't have any experience that that has been done anywhere," Krasko said.

Johnson also objected to what he saw as the deliberate targeting of the historically black Spring Hill Community for the location of the landfill several decades ago when the county was looking for a location to place the landfill

"I feel as though they put the landfill there because it was a black neighborhood," Johnson said.

The county's proposal to expand the landfill is currently under consideration by the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Krasko said if the EPD had any concerns with the methane levels reported in March then they would have notified the county to take actions beyond the actions already taken to repair methane detection devices at the landfill.

"If it were a concern, of course we'd be reacting to it," Krasko said.