Originally created 10/01/99

Sand puts out blaze at landfill

THOMSON -- An underground fire at the abandoned Williams-Mesena Road landfill appeared to be under control Thursday, but contractors will remain on the site indefinitely -- just to make sure.

"There will be people out there until they tell us there is no chance whatsoever of it erupting again," said Vince Dollard, communications director for Georgia's Environmental Protection Division.

State regulators feared that hundreds of tons of buried rubber shoe soles, drums and other industrial and medical waste might continue to burn for weeks. But by Thursday afternoon, the smoke and flames had ceased.

The strategy: Seventy dump-truck loads of sand were emptied into "vents" created by escaping flames and gases. The fire, which began Sept. 9, was smothered, Mr. Dollard said. Officials don't know how the fire started.

The 122-acre landfill had been abandoned since the Environmental Protection Division closed it in 1991.

The site's owner, Mark Gates, has disappeared. But six companies and four McDuffie County residents with ties to the problem have agreed to help finance efforts to extinguish the fire -- costing $30,000 or more a day.

Those parties are Boone A. Knox, J. Douglas Pentecost, William B. Swan, Jerry D. Williams, Uniroyal, Georgia Iron Works, Johnson Controls, Hoover Treated Wood Products, Lehr Automotive and Temple Inland Forest Products. They could be asked to share in later cleanup costs.

Mr. Dollard said Thursday it is too early to calculate costs that will be assessed to the responsible parties for fighting the fire.

"We don't have those figures in yet," he said.

State contractors called to the site have been working with another contractor, Indiana-based Summit Environmental, for the past week. Summit was hired by the group of responsible parties.

Robert Mullins, a Savannah attorney working with the group, said Summit has assumed control of the situation and will remain at the site for at least the next two weeks.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119.


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