HARALSON COUNTY ALLIANCE FOR RESPONSIBLE WASTE MANAGEMENT

Please sign our petition in support Haralson County Commissioners efforts to minimize landfill needs by maximizing recycling, composting, and reuse. 

How should Haralson County household and commercial waste be managed over the coming decades?

With current technologies and markets, up to 80% of the waste we now landfill could be turned into jobs that create a healthier economy by maximizing recycling, reuse, composting, and other processes.  These processes can be done in a way that cause little harm to Haralson County residents.

Another option is a massive landfill proposed for a 2,000-acre site in Haralson County by a company known as Solid Solutions.  While this landfill may also offer economic benefits, it could cause long-term harm to one in twenty Haralson County homes.

With respect to economics, the state Department of Community Affairs noted that Georgians pay $100 million annually to landfill materials that could be recycled then sold as $300 million worth of goods.

Determining which path is best for Haralson County residents, including those living in Bremen, Buchanan, Tallapoosa and Waco, is a complex question.  Georgia counties and cities are required to answer this question through a ten-year solid waste plan.  The current Haralson County Solid Waste Plan is out-of-date and is based on data and technology nearly 20 years old.

Please sign our petition urging the Haralson County Commissioners to postpone any major solid waste decisions, including action on the Solid Solutions landfill proposal, until the plan is revised through a comprehensive examination of all responsible solid waste management options.

What is the Haralson County Alliance for Responsible Waste Management?

The Alliance was formed by many of the one in twenty Haralson County residents whose homes are located in the vicinity of the massive landfill proposed by Solid Solutions.  The Alliance has since grown to include an ever increasing number of people living throughout Haralson County.  Thus far 1,169 people have either registered their landfill concerns with the Haralson County Commissioners or signed the Alliance petition.  Each red dot on the aerial below represents the 837 homes where these 1,169 people live.  The reasons why so many Haralson County residents are opposed to the landfill can be seen at: https://ceds.org/haralson-comments-9-7-2020/


In a June 4, 2020 letter, Solid Solutions stated the landfill would occupy a 300-acre area within 2,000 acres they hope to acquire.  We believe the 2,000 acres is the area bounded by the yellow line below.

After speaking with leading experts, we learned that landfilling waste is, well, a waste.  This opinion is shared by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) as reflected in the following from DCA’s Solid Waste & Recycling webpage:

“The Recycling industry is big business in Georgia, yet every year, Georgians collectively pay more than $100 million to bury [landfill] raw materials worth nearly $300 million to manufacturers based right here in our state. Those manufacturing feedstocks are also known as recyclable material, and about 40 percent of what Georgians set out as ‘garbage’ could have been recycled.”

While there may be an ongoing need for landfilling wastes that cannot be recycled, the Polk County landfill that currently receives Haralson County waste has sufficient capacity for the next 27- to 50-years.  Given that there’s no immediate need for a new landfill, the Alliance is urging the County Commissioners to postpone a decision on the Solid Solutions proposal while all options are thoroughly considered through a comprehensive update of the 2008 Haralson County Solid Waste Plan.  More on this in the next section of this webpage.

For further information on the Alliance contact co-chairs Tommy Crawford of Waco (crawfordtreefarm@gmail.com 770-362-7662) or Scott Cosper of Tallapoosa (theoverlookvenue@gmail.com 770-815-0322).

The Alliance founders have engaged Community & Environmental Defense Services (CEDS).  CEDS has helped communities throughout the U.S. preserve their quality of life from inappropriate waste facilities and other land uses.  It may also be necessary to engage a law firm.  These expenses and others will be essential to ensuring Haralson County chooses the most responsible solid waste options.  Please consider supporting our effort to preserve Haralson County as a great place to live by making a contribution.  Checks should be made payable to: HCARWM and mailed to: HCARWM, Post Office Box 501, Tallapoosa, Georgia 30176.  Or, click the Donate button below to make a contribution by credit card.

Haralson County Solid Waste Plan Out of Date

Georgia law requires that counties and cities adopt a solid waste plan covering a minimum of a ten year period.  Georgia law also states that a new landfill and most other waste handling facilities can only be approved if they are included in a solid waste plan.

The current Haralson County, Georgia Multi-Jurisdictional Solid Waste Management Plan was published in 2008 and only covered the period of 2007 to 2017.  Some of the data upon which the plan was based is 20 years old.

Solid waste management has changed dramatically over the past two decades.  We have learned that these changes offer the opportunity to convert the materials generated in Haralson County into new jobs bolstering both the local and regional economy.  These benefits can be achieved without saddling current and future residents with the largest landfill in Georgia.

The 2008 plan indicated that much of the 6.5 pounds of waste generated daily by each County resident would end up in a landfill. Experts tell us that today that, as a national average, a third of wastes are kept out of landfills through recycling, composting, reuse, and other measures.

The Waste Reduction Element of the 2008 Plan began with the following:

“Georgia is home to some of the strongest recycling markets in the nation, yet these industries must purchase and import raw materials from all over North America to support their operations while Georgia’s material recovery infrastructure declines. Georgians annually dispose of 2.6 million tons of common recyclable materials with an estimated market value of over $250 million. Local government reports from 1998 to 2003 reflect a 12% decline in recycling services available in their community. With over 26 years of permitted disposal capacity throughout the state, landfill tipping fees remain highly competitive, increasing the challenge many local governments face in maintaining or implementing aggressive recycling programs. The State plays a very important role in assisting local governments and the recycling industry to strengthen recycling infrastructure and is supporting key initiatives to increase recycling rates throughout the state.

Waste reduction in this county and its cities appeared to be minimal. Haulers do not do any recycling pick up.”

It is very sad that this last sentence is still true today, except for curbside recyclables collection in Bremen. This points to the urgent need to adopt a new solid waste plan that will set us on the course for maximizing the many benefits of recycling, composting, reuse and other waste reduction measures; not a massive landfill that will serve as a powerful disincentive to these more socially and environmentally responsible approaches.

Tremendous Opportunities to Turn Waste into Wealth

As noted above, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Solid Waste & Recycling section considers recycling and other landfill alternatives an opportunity too good to continue missing:

“The Recycling industry is big business in Georgia, yet every year, Georgians collectively pay more than $100 million to bury [landfill] raw materials worth nearly $300 million to manufacturers based right here in our state. Those manufacturing feedstocks are also known as recyclable material, and about 40 percent of what Georgians set out as ‘garbage’ could have been recycled.”

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is one of the leading think-tanks in the U.S. when it comes to turning waste into wealth. A number of Alliance members recently benefitted from a long conference call with Institute director and co-founder Dr. Neil Seldman. We learned that in addition to the DCA estimate that 40% of what is landfilled can be recycled, another 40% can be composted. In other words, as much as 80% of the materials we currently landfill could be turned into a profitable material.

The Alliance also spoke with experts at the Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC).  The following map from the SERDC website shows the tremendous number of industries that already exist in Georgia and adjoining states that turn recyclables into wealth.  Each of the triangles below is a company that utilizes recyclables as feed stock for producing carpeting and many other products.

One Example of Many Options: County Transfer Station Upgrade to Produce Saleable Products

Dr. Seldman, of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, suggested that instead of building a new municipal landfill, Haralson County should consider upgrading our existing transfer station. The upgrades would include processes for removing recyclables, organics and other materials from the waste stream thereby greatly reducing the quantity of waste to be hauled to Polk County.

Dr. Seldman said there were a number of companies that specialize in these processes which might have interest in operating at the Haralson County transfer station.  In addition to the many local companyies shown in the map above, there are a long list of others that may have interest in setting up shop at the transfer station or elsewhere in our region.

An excellent example is Saint Vincent DePaul of Lane, Oregon. They have ten operations on the east coast and are always looking for new locations.

Here are a few more examples of how a shift in Haralson County solid waste management practices would benefit employment and the economy.

About 40% of what is currently called waste is food and other organic materials. There are many examples of local programs to turn organics into saleable products through composting. For every 10,000 tons of organics composted, six sorting jobs are created. Many more employment opportunities result from processing and distributing these products.

The Alachua County, Florida transfer station is located next to a 40-acre industrial park. Space within the park is reserved for recycling, composting, and reuse companies. Urban Ore is a great example of the type of company that would be attracted to such a facility, were it created at the existing County transfer station. At one Urban Ore site, their crews pull out recyclables and get a service fee equal to what it would have cost to landfill the recyclables – $47/ton.

Largest Georgia Landfill???

In a June 4th letter to Haralson County residents, Solid Solutions stated that their proposed landfill would have an area of 300 acres on a 2,000-acre site. According to a March 2020, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spreadsheet, the largest landfill in Georgia is 210 acres on a 560-acre site. Therefore, the landfill proposed by Solid Solutions would start as the largest in Georgia with 1,700 acres on which to expand for decades to come.

It is far more difficult to prevent a landfill from expanding when compared to ensuring it is the best solid waste management option in the first place. It is for this and many other reasons that the Alliance urges the Haralson County Board of County Commissioners to postpone major decisions, including action on the Solid Solutions proposal, until a comprehensive solid waste plan rewrite is completed.  It is only through such a comprehensive analysis that the best option for future Haralson County residents can be identified.

Potential Waste Facility Impacts

Following is a summary of the possible adverse effects associated with landfills as well as the recycling, composting, and other processing facilities suggested in this webpage.  The potential for each of these adverse effects should be thoroughly evaluated as part of a comprehensive review of Haralson County solid waste management options.  Measures should then be recommended for resolving each impact.  It is only through such a thorough, open review process that Haralson County elected officials and taxpayers can select the best option to preserve their quality of life and that of their children – and grand children.

Health Impacts of Landfills, Transfer Stations, Etc.

A waste facility can threaten human health via releases of disease- or allergy-causing matter to the air, soil or water. The threat may take the form of disease-causing organisms, cancer-causing substances, dust or other respiratory irritants as well as the noise or odors addressed below, and a host of other undesirable scenarios. Health risks vary depending upon facility type, design and location. For example, a New York study determined that those living near a landfill were at greater risk when compared to transfer station or incinerator neighbors. Even seemingly benign facilities, like composting operations, can pose a significant threat as illustrated by a Cornell University report showing that the bacteria, fungi and other airborne pathogens released from yard waste facilities can affect the health of those living a third of a mile distant. This is but a small sampling of the extensive research regarding the health effects of waste facilities. Unfortunately, limited space prevents us from reviewing all the research here.

Noise Impacts of Landfills, Transfer Stations, Etc.

Sound that disturbs the peacefulness of your home is an apt description of noise. Excessive noise from both landfills and transfer stations can make it difficult to relax, concentrate or share a conversation with others. Early morning or late-night noise can disrupt sleep. With regard to landfills and transfer stations, the most common noises are from back-up beepers and the clang of tail gates slamming against heavy truck bodies. Public address systems are occasionally another source of noise.  Noise from trucks traveling to and from waste facilities can affect many more area residents.

In a 2010 report, the National Academy of Engineering cited back-up beepers as one of the top six noise sources associated with behavioral and emotional consequences. Backup beepers and slamming tailgates top the federal Department of Transportation’s list of nighttime construction noise sources.

Alternatives are available to traditional back-up beepers, such as white-noise devices which may be even more effective but cause less disturbance to area residents. The Federal Highway Administration recommended four actions to reduce noise from slamming tailgates:

  • Establish truck clean out staging areas far from homes,
  • Use rubber gaskets,
  • Decrease speed of closure, or
  • Use bottom dump trucks.

Odor Impacts of Landfills, Transfer Stations, Etc.

Generally, municipal waste odors are not too bad. But when the odors are bad they can be offensive at a distance of up to four or five miles. Gypsum wallboard in construction and demolition can release hydrogen-sulfide which has an odor of rotten eggs if it becomes wet in a low-oxygen environment. This sulfurous odor has been smelled up to three miles away. Some industrial or other “putresible” wastes can be pretty horrendous, like those from food processing or sewage treatment plants.

Landfill operators are required to cover wastes with a layer of earth at the end of each day.  This daily cover usually keeps odors down. Some of the worst odors occur when its necessary to dig into a landfill to repair liner leaks or broken gas collection piping.

Deodorants and odor neutralizers are used to reduce nauseating smells. But an active gas extraction system is the most reliable means of controlling landfill odors.

Property Value Impacts of Landfills, Transfer Stations, Etc.

If a landfill or transfer station can be seen, heard or smelled from a home then it probably lowers resale value. Property value can also be depressed if landfills and transfer stations cannot be seen, heard or smelled but a large number of trucks travelling to or from the facility pass by a home.

Most studies find that property value increases 5% for each additional mile separating a home from a landfill.  For example, a study of three Pennsylvania landfills found that adjacent homes sold for 13% less than comparable houses not located near a landfill. A study of five Ohio landfills concluded that property value is only lowered when more expensive homes are within a few blocks.

Truck Traffic Impacts of Landfills, Transfer Stations, Etc.

Landfills and transfer stations generate a tremendous amount of truck traffic. An increase in heavy truck traffic can lower property value and increase accidents as well as noise. The noise alone can substantially lower property value when truck traffic increases. The noise from heavy truck traffic lowers property value at a rate 30 to 50 times greater than cars. This is because at 50 feet heavy trucks emit noise 16 times louder than car traffic. While large trucks account for just 4% of registered vehicles they were involved in 9% of fatal crashes.

Water Pollution Impacts of Landfills, Transfer Stations, Etc.

When rain or snowmelt enters a landfill and mixes with decomposing waste a highly-contaminated liquid known as leachate can form. Modern landfills benefit from a series of measures to minimize the release of leachate into underlying groundwater or nearby streams. The measures include a liner beneath and around the sides of the buried waste along with a system of pipes at the bottom of the landfill to collect leachate for treatment. When a landfill cell is closed it is covered with an impermeable cap. Landfills are also ringed with monitoring wells to detect significant increases in the release of leachate.

While all of these measures can reduce and delay leachate releases, eventual water pollution cannot be prevented. This is because water must not come in contact with the buried waste for hundreds of years. Liners have been in use for about 30 years, which is about the same duration as the warranty offered by most liner manufacturers. One study indicated that liner half-life is about 36 years. As holes develop in liners they can be repaired, but this requires excavating buried waste which can lead to severe odor problems. And eventual, catastrophic liner failure may be inevitable.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requires owners to monitor and maintain landfills for 30 years after closure.  Some states, like California, now require those who profit from landfills to continue monitoring and maintance long beyond the minimum 30-year post-closure period required by USEPA.

Existing Georgia Landfills: Odors, Property Value & Water Pollution

Stack & Associates has helped more Georgians protect their homes from poorly sited landfills than any other Georgia law firm.  In 2019 the Screven County Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of approval for a massive landfill proposal.  Testimony by Stack & Associates and many others was crucial to this victory.  In June, 2020 the Ogeechee Riverkeeper reported that the landfill proposal killed when the application was withdrawn.

A portion of the testimony presented by Stack & Associates can be viewed at: https://ceds.org/excerpts-from-comments-to-screven-county-board-of-commissioners/.  This testimony provides a review of the potential impacts of Georgia landfills on wells, other ground and surface waters, property value as well as nuisances such as odors.

Please Consider Supporting the Alliance with a Contribution

The Alliance founders have engaged Community & Environmental Defense Services (CEDS).  CEDS has helped communities throughout the U.S. preserve their quality of life from inappropriate waste facilities and other land uses.  We may may also need to engage a law firm.

These expenses and others will be essential to ensuring Haralson County chooses the most responsible solid waste options.  Please consider supporting our effort to preserve Haralson County as a great place to live by making a contribution.  Checks should be made payable to: HCARWM and mailed to: HCARWM, Post Office Box 501, Tallapoosa, Georgia 30176.  Or, click the Donate button below to make a contribution by credit card.