Gov. Nathan Deal’s business partner said Wednesday he thought he had met all state and county regulations when he began accepting food waste for composting at his Hall County landfill.
Neighbors have complained about the stench coming from the landfill for more than a month, and Hall County officials earlier this week said that Gainesville Waste and Recycling, owned by businessman Ken Cronan, has violated its zoning.
Cronan told WSB-TV that he was surprised by the county’s findings.
“At no time did I feel like we were doing anything that we weren’t supposed to be doing,” he said. “I followed the protocol that they asked me to do. I made application to the EPD to be able to accept food waste for the compost. Part of that requirement is that the county sign off on it that I’m meeting zoning compliance, and of course you saw the documents where they had signed off on it.”
Cronan acknowledged that a bad smell had emanated from his property.
“We have aggressively attacked it, fixed it, and are continuing to make advanced changes to it so it won’t happen in the future,” he told Channel 2 Action News. “We did have an odor problem, we had a bird population problem, both have been aggressively attacked and we continuously are working on that to make sure that we are good neighbors.”
Deal was a co-owner of the landfill site until 2003, when he sold his interest to Cronan, although he was still listed as an officer on state documents until 2007.
Cronan said he considers Deal his best friend and added, “I hate that his name was brought into this. I have spoken with him about what I’m doing to make repairs and that type of stuff, but Governor Deal has no (financial) interest whatsoever in that.”
While county officials have imposed no penalties against the landfill, Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell said on Wednesday that commissioners would discuss fines next week if problems persist.
In a three-page memo on Monday, County Administrator Randy Knighton said Cronan violated zoning ordinances by accepting food waste and by digging up part of an old municipal landfill on his property. The landfill property is adjacent to an auto salvage yard Cronan co-owns with Deal.
Cronan has had the necessary local zoning for construction debris and inert material for years. He applied for a state environmental permit to begin a composting operation a year ago, but there are no records that he applied for additional permissions from the county.
In a Nov. 8, 2011, letter to the state, County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver wrote that the proposed composting plan complied with all local zoning ordinances. Cronan contributed $1,000 to Oliver’s unsuccessful re-election campaign a few months before the letter was sent, records show. Bell said he will ask the commission to rescind the letter sent to the state, arguing that the commission never approved it.
Cronan said his landfill has stopped taking food waste. However, he told WSB the odor came after a sediment pond was overwhelmed by heavy rains.
Enjoy expanded coverage of college football for UGa, Tech and the SEC, with our SEC Insider, covering all Southeastern Conference matchups and articles by AJC staff and regional newspapers that cover the SEC.