Originally created 03/09/00

Landfill poses no area threat, new study says

THOMSON -- Contaminated soil and water beneath the defunct Mesena Road Landfill is confined to the site and poses no threat to nearby residents, according to a new environmental study.

However, the 122-acre landfill -- which burned underground for weeks after catching fire in September -- still requires remediation and cleanup, the 4-inch-thick report concluded.

The landfill's owner, Mark Gates, disappeared after state authorities closed the site in 1991 for environmental violations. Since then, Georgia's Environmental Protection Division has been working to identify responsible parties with ties to the site.

Before the fire broke out, EPD was negotiating with 10 such parties to finance an evaluation to stabilize and close the landfill.

Those four businessmen and six companies -- 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 -- paid for the recent study.

"The information we have from our consultant is there's no evidence of regulated substances that impacted areas off the site," said Robert Mullins, a Savannah environmental attorney representing the group.

The report, prepared by Atlanta-based NewFields Inc., found traces of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead, benzene and other substances in the landfill, but said there is no evidence any such materials have moved off the site.

Test excavations found few surprises, according to the report.

Materials found in the landfill included roofing products, medical waste, carpet, plastic sheeting, tires, drums, scrap metal, suspected asbestos pipe wrapping and electric motors.

Jim Brown, coordinator of EPD's Hazardous Site Response Program, said the group will be ordered to perform corrective action deemed necessary, he said.

The state already has spent $341,000 on fighting the fire and related costs.

Mr. Mullins said the group that financed the studies includes people or businesses who patronized or had an ownership interest in the landfill before it was closed.

The group is working to identify others with ties to the site who also will be asked to share in cleanup costs, he said.

"From our standpoint, the next phase is to determine what type of corrective action is to be done," he said. "The key is to ensure there are no impacts leaving the site."

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


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