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Officials brief neighborhood residents about landfill improvement project
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COVINGTON, Ga. - Members of the Newton County Board of Commissioners joined with members of the county’s Solid Waste Management Authority and landfill officials Tuesday night to brief members of the historic Spring Hill Community about an improvement project at the landfill slated to start later this month.

Waste excavation for the state mandated project is scheduled to start Nov. 19 with excavation expected to be completed Apr. 30 2022. 

SWMA Chairman Phil Wise, who lives in the community, said the meeting at the New Hope Baptist Church on Highway 162 was to give community members the opportunity to have their questions about the project answered.

“We hope this is a very informative meeting,” he said. “We want to thank Good Hope Baptist Church for hosting the meeting. We hope this is very informative and that everyone gets all of their questions answered” 

BOC Chairman Marcello Banes said he wanted the residents to get “information overload.”

“Hopefully, we’re going to give out a whole lot of information to you guys tonight,” he said. “A lot of information that you deserve to get, a few things that are happening at the landfill. We hope everybody has got their notepad out and their pencil and are ready to take notes. There’s a lot of information to be given.

“This is something that this community needs to hear and get it straight from the horse’s mouth. You got it right here, firsthand information. Hopefully, this won’t be the last one and we can do this again as we get further along in this project.”

After viewing a model of a landfill, residents were given the opportunity to write down their critical concerns and have them addressed during a break out period that gave them the opportunity to speak with a subject matter expert in their particular concern.

Curtis Reynolds of Harbin Engineering said the improvement project involves excavating previously disposed of waste and cover soil from an unlined cell in the landfill and separating the waste from the soil by screening.

“We’ll take the waste that we’ve separated out, move it to the lined area that’s more protective of human health and the environment, and reuse the soil to cover that waste as we bury it daily.”

Reynolds said no groundwater contamination has been detected off of landfill property.

“There are about 40 groundwater wells on the site monitoring the three landfill units,” he said. “We monitor those twice a year. In the history of monitoring, there have not been any groundwater impacts detected off-site and no groundwater impacts to the Yellow River.”

Reynolds also said that landfill gas has not been reported west of Lower River Road.

Explaining the project, Reynolds said, “We want to remove the source of contamination. We don’t want the waste or the source of contamination to sit there 50 more years and be a concern to human health and the environment.

“We had rather remove that waste and soil, put the waste in a lined facility that is more protective of human health and the environment.”

Reynolds said regulations also require the construction of a buffer between the property line and waste limits.

“We want to establish a 200-foot buffer, get it vegetated and planted with pines to create a visual barrier and dust barrier  and other things like that from the public.”

Reynolds said plans had been made to deal with potential impacts of the project, including odors, dust, litter traffic impacts and noise. He said odor monitoring will be performed and dust will be managed by spraying roads with water.

Reynolds also said fences will be installed if litter becomes a problem and that trucks used on the project will stay on landfill property.

“All trucks and equipment on the project will be used on onsite roads,” he said. “There shouldn’t be any impact to Lower River Road traffic.”

Work is slated to occur between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

After the presentation, residents were given the opportunity to voice their concerns.

One resident expressed concern about water runoff. Another voiced concern about the smell.

“My concern is the gas smell. I don’t live too far from the landfill, probably about a quarter of a mile,” he said. “I walked out the door this morning-wow. If you strike a match, I don’t know what would happen.”

Another questioned whether any other counties were bringing trash to the Newton County. 

“I live walking distance, probably about two minutes from the landfill,” he said. “I see all kind of trucks coming up and down, trash falling off. They just keep coming and coming and coming. They don’t care. They don’t live there.”

Other questions dealt with toxins that will be released during the project, the life of the landfill and if any consideration had been given to shutting the landfill down. One resident also voiced concern about taxes.

“If the landfill don’t kill me, taxes will’” he said.

Residents who didn’t have their concerns addressed during the meeting were asked to provide contact information so they could be contacted later with an answer.

Wise thanked the residents for attending the meeting. He said he’s available to help get answers.

“Keep going to the website,” he said. “You guys out there in the community, if anybody needs me, just stop by or give me a call, I’ll gladly do what I can to get you the answers.

“I’m definitely not the expert, but we’ve got experts and I can point you to them. Some of our questions, of course, cannot be answered. But we will do the best we can to answer all questions. If it’s something where we have to get more information and we have to reach out to more experts, that’s what we’ll do.”

In an email response to The Covington News Friday afternoon, Solid Waste Manager Kevin Walter said the landfill is an asset for the community. 

“The Solid Waste Management Authority is preparing responses to all of the citizen questions received in writing at the meeting this week at Good Hope Baptist Church,” he said. “We will have those answers soon, including why not close the landfill.  The bottom line is that the Landfill is a great asset to all of our citizens to keep our waste disposal costs as low as possible.  Having to take all wastes out of the County could easily make individual waste disposal costs double for our residents.”