Originally created 06/05/99

Statham finishes cleanup of sludge

STATHAM, Ga. -- The Barrow County city of Statham has successfully cleaned up the pool of sludge that claimed an 11-year-old boy's life nearly two weeks ago.

But the city could still face severe monetary penalties for illegally dumping the semi-solid waste material and failing to comply with environmental regulations.

Bob Bishop, manager of the state Environmental Protection Division's regional office in Athens, said Thursday the city has emptied the pit of sludge, located off Peters Street on city-owned property, where Randolph Rainwater of Euclid Street drowned May 22.

Randolph fell into the pit when a dirt bank gave way as he and a friend rode their bicycles along the edge.

The pit was dug by the city to dry excess sludge from the nearby wastewater treatment facility before dumping it at a private landfill in Winder.

Mayor Robert Bridges could not be reached for comment.

"The city hired a company last week to drain the pit and dig up everything," Mr. Bishop said. "However, we are still conducting our investigation as to how everything in the creation of the pit took place. That won't be completed and sent to Harold Reheis (state EPD director) until next week."

The city could be fined as much as $50,000 per day for violating federal water quality laws in connection with the sludge pit.

The pit could also subject the city to fines in connection with violations of federal solid waste laws. Those fines could total $1,000 for the first day of violation, with $500 fines for subsequent days of violation.

A monetary settlement between Statham and the EPD could occur if the city handles the sludge problem to the satisfaction of the EPD, Mr. Bishop said recently.

If that does not happen, the city could be faced with paying the full amount of all fines.

The final amount of any monetary penalty is, however, contingent upon the findings of the EPD investigative report set to go to Mr. Reheis next week.


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