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Landfill flashback to 2050
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Dear Editor,
Remember the 2050 Plan?
It was developed out of sight of public input by a group of local officials with the help of a selected set of experts not from here and offered as the one and only option for our future.

The commissioners took a while to finally get what everybody else saw right away, that this backroom plan was unacceptable and unworkable.

Sadly, the Newton County BoC seems to have forgotten those lessons from just a few months ago. They now appear to be using the identical tactics of backroom planning that excluded public input to put forth one and only one option for addressing the county’s self-inflicted landfill mess.

The details of the landfill problem are way too complicated to address here, but briefly it involves a lawsuit the county lost to East Georgia Land & Development Co. ($20M), 424 acres of land adjacent to the current landfill owned by East Georgia, and mandated cleanup for violation of environmental regulations for groundwater contamination and methane gas emissions in the current landfill ($35M). Please see this article for an overview:

The BoC is now trying to sell the public, based on the recommendations of their chosen experts, that the only option is for the county to buy the 424 acres from East Georgia to triple the size of the current landfill; designate the expanded site as a regional landfill that will take in up to 10 times current levels of waste tons per day (to come from other counties in Georgia); then turn over operation of the expanded regional landfill to a private company (Green Hill P3). Lots of trucks, lots of garbage.

The value of this expanded landfill may be approximated by multiplying the charge per ton ($32-$40), times the number of tons per day (1000 minimum up to 2000 possibly as Green Hill push for profits for their shareholders - there is no limit imposed in the current proposal), times days operated per year (300) times number of years (25) of the agreement with Green Hill. This gives a range of $240,000,000 to $600,000,000.

For this potential half-billion dollar asset, Green Hill will generously pay for the cost of the lawsuit, the purchase of the land, the environmental cleanup, funding a post closure assurance fund and a small percentage of revenue payback in various forms to the county - a total probably under $100M. A good deal for Green Hill - about 20 cents on the dollar - not so much for Newton County.

If we don’t rush to judgment and take reasonable time, better options can no doubt be negotiated.
I am sure the BoC want the best solution. And some of us want to help. Among several fundamental questions are:

- Was this put out to bid to other companies? What other options are there that do not risk making Newton county best known for its huge garbage dump?
-What studies have been done on the impacts to attracting high income earners, housing, tourism, quality of life, etc., in other counties with regional garbage dumps? Is this something to aspire to?
- How can such a complex situation and proposal possibly be justly vetted by the public in the space of one work session (held 3/3/15) and one planned public hearing scheduled 3/12/15?
- How is it that the BoC now wants to use the East Georgia 424 acres to create a regional landfill when the entire $20M lawsuit was undertaken over the course of 17 years to prevent that very thing?
- Has an independent environmental study been done to assess the impact of this proposed expansion and land use, especially considering the proximity to established communities, the Yellow River, groundwater and downstream impacts?
- What in this plan supports increasing recycling in the county from 2% to 60%?
- Why is the operation of the 11 county collection points not subject to open bid?
- Has an independent engineer reviewed this plan along with some other possible options?
- How will the true environmental, health and economic impacts on the surrounding Springhill community be addressed?
-What will be contributed to clean up the Yellow River and address groundwater contamination from past, current and any future leachate from the landfill?
- Since the county will still own the landfill, what are the liabilities for the county (read: tax on citizens) of this expanded operation and all the current obligations if Green Hill P3 fails and goes bankrupt?

We need an open, transparent process to address these and other questions and formulate the best solution. The public hearing is scheduled for 7:00pm, March 12, at the old courthouse on the square in Covington.
As Americans, you of course have the right to remain asleep and watch TV rather than pay attention or get involved in such matters that impact you and your community. However, you might want to wake up and pay attention to this. Just saying.

— Steve Brown