Originally created 01/30/98

Bill seeks to protect state from polluters



ATLANTA -- To keep hog farmers who have polluted elsewhere from ruining Georgia's environment, a lawmaker is proposing to allow state environmental officials to reject an out-of-town company's bid for a permit based on a bad track record.

Environmentalists praised the bill by state Rep. Ann Purcell, D-Rincon, saying it will prevent a stampede of hog farmers ousted from other states. Concerns centered around massive pig-farm operations that include the pollution of ground and surface waters with animal waste.

There are several proposed commercial pig-farm proposals pending in Georgia, including one slapped with serious sanctions in North Carolina.

Melvin G. Purvis wants a 22,000-hog farm in Taylor County in west Georgia. He was ordered to shut down two of his 11 pig operations in North Carolina last year because hog waste leaked from his property. "This is very good to keep the proven bad actors who are being driven out of the Carolinas from coming to Georgia," said Neill Herring, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club of Georgia.

Another pig farm is proposed for Tattnall County by brothers Ike, Jerry and Jack Webb.

Ms. Purcell introduced the bill Thursday after learning from state Environmental Protection Division Director Harold Reheis that current law didn't require him to consider misdeeds in other states before issuing a permit to a commercial pig farmer.

"It's not to eliminate industries from coming into the state. This is just a safe measure to make sure we do check what individuals or companies have done in the past," Ms. Purcell said. Under the measure, the state agency would be able to turn down a company that has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or paid a civil penalty for violating federal or state environmental laws in the past five years.

Pig farmers generally monitor their own waste-treatment effectiveness by checking test wells on their property and sending monthly reports to the state.

Ms. Purcell's bill was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee for consideration.