Meriwether Landfill Opponents Score Partial Victory Before Administrative Law Judge

5 04 2008

One group of opponents to Meriwether County’s proposed regional landfill scored a partial victory on Wednesday when an Administrative Law Judge issued an order, partially granting and partially denying motions made by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD), and Greenbow, LLC’s to dismiss their petition.

The petitioners include: Darrell Segraves, Traci Segraves, Evelyn Zarate, Deanna Work, Steven Work, Ronald F. Doche, Darrek W. Haye, Dawn Campbell, Sanford L. Wood, and Herb Bartlett.  While several Meriwether Countians have expressed objection to the landfill, this group, represented by Christopher Reeves, of Swift, Currie, McGhee and Hires in Atlanta, made a strong enough argument about the potential contamination of water resources, to win an evidentiary hearing, scheduled for April 14 and 15.

In December, Dr. Carol Couch, Director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) issued a solid waste handling permit to Greenbow, LLC, authorizing the construction and operation of the Turkey Run Municipal Solid Waste Landfi ll in Meriwether County.   

Around the middle of January, Segraves and others petitioned for a Hearing to challenge the issuance of the permit.

At the end of February, Greenbow, LLC, joined by Georgia EPD, entered their motion to dismiss the Petition.

In their motion, they challenged Lone Oak’s Mayor Ronald Doche’s standing to represent both himself as an individual and as a representative of the Lone Oak Community, too.  A hearing was convened on March 21.

On March 29, Segraves and others, filed an amended petition, wherein they set forth 8 grounds on which they argue the permit should either be invalidated or modified.  Among the grounds listed in the amended petition were: respondents failed to demonstrate how the landfill will not pose a bird hazard to aircraft; did not make the required demonstrations where a landfill will be placed in a 100 year floodplain and in a wetlands area; failed to demonstrate that the landfill will not cause or contribute to violations of state water quality standards and that the ground water monitoring plan approved by the respondent is insufficient; intervener failed to demonstrate that the landfill will not adversely impact private and public wells in the vicinity as well as the Blue Creek Water Supply watershed and a groundwater recharge area under the site; and the permits conditions are impermissibly vague and therefore unenforceable.

Speaking to one of the petitioners, Evelyn Zarate, a resident of Troup County, who talked about why she is so concerned about this landfill, and shared her reactions to the ruling. “This is a small victory, but it’s only a step, and we need help from the other citizens who object to the landfill… 

“There are many important reasons why my family and I object to the landfill and we’ve been fortunate to be able to sit down talk to some of our neighbors, and we were able to touch many by telling them why this is troubling for us.  First of all, we manufacture corn tortillas, and our business runs with the majority of this water here. For every 50 pounds of flour, we have to have 50 pounds of water. We depend greatly on that water to make our product…”

“Secondly, we’ve got a family.  We have children here and these children drink this water.”

“We also have a son who has hemophelia and him having this bleeding disorder, if he drinks contaminated water.  What if somebody throws away asprin, and that asprin goes to the landfill, and starts to break down? It’s going to leak down into that water. If he drinks water, contaminated with the asprin, it’s going to start him to bleeding, or it’s going to kill him.” 

“Lastly, we have neighbors beside us who are sick, and the ones who are sick, have a low immune system.”

Zarate said, “It’s been hard getting people involved. The problem is that the majority of people want to fight with their hands close to their sides, and you just can’t fight a battle with your hands close to your sides, you have to put your hands up, and get in it.”  “We got an attorney and it’s been very fortunate for us that a handful of people would go out and talk with the neighbors and get them to donate a little bit toward paying the lawyer and keeping the fight going.”

Zarate described the groups’ attorney, Christopher R. Reeves, as a wonderful speaker, and said he’s got his feet firmly on the ground, knows what he’s talking about, and when he speaks, people listen.  “We got involved after Mr. Cecil came and spoke with us. We decided then, after we went to the team meeting, that we should do something. People suggested that we go and talk with the City of Hogansville. So, I called one of the council members, Jean Crocker. I had called her to ask what “side” the city of Hogansville was on with this landfill issue. She asked me where I lived, and I was stunned when she told me that I live in the county, and have no reason to come to a city council meeting. She told me that I was not part of the city of Hogansville, and that I should not come and talk to the city about the landfill.

But evidently the word got around, and they put me back on the agenda. I’ve spoken to them twice. I asked them why can’t, they do anything about the landfill. They have closed their mouths and said “There’s nothing they can do.”

We’ve had to fight. But, if we can’t do nothing but bark we  can bark.  We’ve told them if they sit down and choose to do nothing, this is going to happen, whether they do something or not. They know what will happen if they choose to do nothing. So, why not get up and do something? You never know, what may come out of it. They don’t understand that it’s going to be very unpleasant around this landfill.”

On Wednesday, Judge Kristin L. Miller ruled in favor of Greenbow and EPD’s motion to dismiss the Petition on four counts, 1, 2, 4, and 9.   Miller denied their motion on three counts, 3, 6, and 7 and stated that the Mayor, Ronald Doche’s status as an individual and as Mayor of Lone Oak, is sufficient to withstand Greenbow’s and EPD’s motion to dismiss.  Miller indicated in the order, that a hearing would be convened to address the issue of the Mayor’s standing, just prior to commencement of the evidentiary hearing. 

The evidentiary hearing has been scheduled for April 14th and 15th.