Originally created 07/09/98

Garbage left in building



WARRENTON, Ga. -- Environmental regulators are scratching their heads over a stinky situation in Warren County.

A company that built a transfer station to collect trash and haul it to landfills outside the county abandoned the operation -- leaving behind more than 30 tons of festering household garbage.

Georgia's Environmental Protection Division ordered its removal a month ago. But the site's operator, now living in Arkansas, hasn't responded. And the property is closed and locked.

If the material were toxic, EPD could use state Superfund money to finance an emergency cleanup. But since the material isn't hazardous, there's no legal provision to remove it.

"We don't have any mechanism that appears to be available for us to go in and remove it ourselves," said Bob Bishop, EPD's northeast regional manager of field compliance and enforcement.

"It's a good bit of waste: a 20,000 square foot building completely filled," he said. "If it were exposed to the environment, we could make a case it poses an imminent health hazard. But it's in a building, so it's not really a health issue."

Despite growing problems with hordes of rats that have moved into the area, the trash remains, he said. "Some of it's been sitting there since the first of the year."

On April 13, EPD issued an administrative order to the transfer station operator, D & H Rail Services, directing that the trash be removed, Mr. Bishop said. There has been no response.

Warren County Commission Chairman Bobby Johnson said the transfer station owner, Harold Vines of Leachville, Ark., had good intentions.

"They did a good job up until the last few months," he said. "But the trash is still there."

County officials believe EPD should handle the problem.

"They wanted me to have the Board of Health get involved, but it doesn't belong to us," Mr. Johnson sad. "The government has nothing in it and we want them to handle it. Eventually something's got to be done."

In the meantime, Mr. Bishop acknowledged it will be difficult for EPD to resolve the case, especially when the responsible party is out of state. "We're not going to extradite the guy from Arkansas."

Mr. Vines did not return phone messages left at his Arkansas office Tuesday and Wednesday.

Warren County officials, meanwhile, have hired another contractor to haul the county's trash to McDuffie County landfill near Thomson on an interim basis.

"We're hoping somebody else will come in and reopen this transfer station," Mr. Johnson said. "I want to be able to work with whoever the new owners will be."