ATLANTA -- A bill that breezed through the Senate has stalled in a House subcommittee to give landfill opponents and defenders of aquifers a chance to mount opposition to the bill.
Wednesday, the Resource Management Subcommittee postponed a hearing on Senate Bill 110 when Rep. Bubber Epps, D-Dry Branch, asked for it.
“My request is simple. Just give us time,” he said. “We’re trying to keep up with the significance of the impact this could have, not only for us but for future generations.”
“I think that’s a reasonable request,” said Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Judy Manning, R-Marietta.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said the point of his bill is to remove confusion in the law. It deals with the state’s issuance of permits for government landfills in areas the Environmental Protection Division designates as significant recharge areas for aquifers.
Such areas, mostly in the central and southern parts of the state where the groundwater is close to the surface, allow rain to soak through the sandy soil to underground pools tapped for drinking water. Cities like Savannah get most of their water from aquifers.
Landfills must be lined to collect liquids leaching from the waste before it can contaminate groundwater, but critics warn that liners don’t capture all of the liquids.
Epps represents Twiggs County where a large landfill near a recharge area is a major local employer but also a lightning rod for landfill opponents.
Murphy stressed to the subcommittee that provisions in the law protecting aquifers from landfills won’t be diminished by his legislation. Instead, he only wants to strip out a paragraph prohibiting permits for landfills that accept out-of-state waste, a provision the courts struck down in 1995, he said. It hasn’t been enforced in 16 years.
“This does not have anything to do with groundwater recharge: nothing, zero,” he said.
EPD officials did not attend the brief meeting because they were attending a meeting of the Natural Resources Board across the street. Delaying the hearing will also give them a chance to come before the subcommittee whenever the new date is set.
SB 110 passed the Senate March 8 by a vote of 34-17 on a mostly party-line vote. Only Republican Sens. Jesse Stone of Waynesboro and Ronnie Chance of Tyrone joined the Democrats in opposing it.