On the other hand, an environmental group and three professional engineers applauded the changes, one of which would require every landfill to hire engineers. Their comments came during a public hearing on the proposed rule changes.
The Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources proposed tougher rules because it has lost contact with the owners of about 1,000 landfills registered since 1989. Another 1,200 registered landfills are in subdivision lots where six large homebuilders buried construction waste and no longer have the documentation on them.
Many have polluted groundwater, generated methane andcaught fire.
“We have had a number of violations. We have had numerous issues that have led us to these changes,” said Jeff Cown, program manager for EPD’s solid-waste management.
But the landfill owners say the agency should go after the violators rather than imposing stricter requirements on those following the rules.
“The reason you have a lot of illegal people out there is because, even in the current rules, when they hear dollar signs, it scares them away. Then they get in an illegal business,” said Lamar Scott, owner of a Cobb County landfill. “If you tack on more for the guys who are legal and compliant, then that’s going to scare us away.”
For Hawkinsville, the new rules would cost $150,000 up front and $12,000 per year, according to City Manager Jerry Murkerson. In Fayette County, they would force the government to haul material to neighboring Fulton County when it already operates at a loss, according to Vanessa Birrell, Fayette County’s environmental manager.
“I’m all fired up because obviously some people in the room haven’t had to deal with budgets using taxpayers’ money and meet deficit amounts that some of us have to do every day,” she said.
Cown said he had heard from engineers that the costs would be about one-fifth the Hawkinsville estimate.
Engineers from three firms that work with commercial landfills praised the proposed changes.
Kevin Berry, an engineer from Macon, said he has seen several inert landfills accepting material they were not approved to handle, such as metal and recyclables.
“It’s obvious to me that without EPD inspections, the current landfills will continue to accept whatever waste they choose with little regard for these rules,” he said, adding that the reduction of operating landfills would result in a number the agency could inspect.
The Natural Resources Board will vote on the proposed rule change at its August meeting. The public can continue to file written comments with the agency until June 21. They may be sent to email@example.com.