Cleanup underway at South Fulton illegal dump

Contractors clean up a years-old illegal landfill at 7365 Bishop Road in South Fulton on March 21. The land sold in June 2023 and the new owner plans to use it as a storage site.

Credit: Jim Gaines

Credit: Jim Gaines

Contractors clean up a years-old illegal landfill at 7365 Bishop Road in South Fulton on March 21. The land sold in June 2023 and the new owner plans to use it as a storage site.

An illegal landfill in South Fulton is getting cleaned up after years of state citations, court action, a property sale and at least one major fire.

The 10-acre plot at 7635 Bishop Road is now in the hands of 9606 Capital LLC, a Miami-based company that operates outdoor storage facilities for trucks, containers, industrial materials and other vehicles and equipment. Fulton County property records show 9606 Capital bought the roughly trapezoidal site on the south side of Bishop Road for $1 million on June 29, 2023.

Major cleanup is underway on the site, which is zoned for industrial use and sits next to another vehicle-storage lot. Much of the surrounding land is otherwise undeveloped.

“The site will be cleaned up and the (new owners) will be expanding the logistics center located next door,” according to a statement from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The new owner’s corrective action plan, filed with Georgia EPD on Aug. 31, 2023, says the site includes a vacant, dilapidated house and an office trailer, and had been used as a “concrete and wood recycling center.”

The plan calls for having a waste management company do the cleanup, then adding fill and gravel to prepare the site for truck parking and trailer storage. It projects an August 2024 completion date.

Ned Mahic, executive chairman of 9606 Capital LLC, agreed via email to a phone interview but then stopped responding.

The corrective action plan notes that evidence of lead contamination was found in the soil at least 13 feet down. If that can be “safely accessed,” it will be dug up and disposed of or treated off-site, the plan says. Three groundwater monitoring wells are to be installed.

County property records indicate that the landfill’s previous owner, Tandy Ross Bullock, bought the land for $243,000 in June 2005.

Bullock Construction, “a construction materials recycling center,” occupied the property since at least 2007, the corrective action plan says. Fulton County started getting complaints by 2007 about illegal dumping on the site. Between June 2017 and April 2019, Georgia EPD visited the site 40 times and documented a growing mound of debris, according to court paperwork. The accumulation was eventually described as a 60-foot-high mound.

No more complaints have come in since the property was sold to 9606 Capital, according to Sara Lips, Georgia EPD’s director of communications and community engagement.

Georgia EPD does not keep a comprehensive list of illegal dump sites, which vary widely in size, Lips said. The agency got 460 complaints of solid waste violations statewide in 2023, with about 200 of them in metro Atlanta, she said.

“In general, comprehensive solid waste violations are pretty time consuming to get resolved,” Lips said. It’s often hard to find the landowner or who dumped the waste, but in most cases that can be done and violations are resolved through amicable agreements, she said. Cases that are fought out in court, such as the Bishop Road site, are rare, Lips said.

A brief from Georgia EPD Director Richard Dunn, filed in November 2019 as part of the contempt case, says the site never had a waste permit but Bullock dumped there and charged others to do the same, avoiding higher fees at legitimate landfills.

“Mr. Bullock followed his well-established pattern and practice of ignoring the law in favor of whatever would benefit him financially,” Dunn wrote.

The agency issued Bullock with multiple violations over many years; Bullock repeatedly agreed to clean it up but failed to do so — and instead dumped more, allowing erosion into a nearby stream, Dunn wrote.

On Sept. 20, 2018, the debris caught fire. Firefighters extinguished the open flames, but embers continued to smolder deep within the trash pile for eight months. Fires reportedly flared up several times in the next few years.

An Environmental Protection Agency air study found there were no long-term health effects from exposure to the smoke, but identified worrisome levels of six chemicals.

In court filings Bullock blamed the fire on arson by unnamed competitors, whom he also accused of filing complaints as a “weapon.” He denounced state environmental officials and threatened to sue in return.

Meanwhile, Georgia EPD got an order from Fulton County Superior Court for Bullock to fully extinguish the fire by May 20, 2019. The agency also got a judgment for a civil penalty of just over $1 million.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the case, and Georgia EPD noted little progress toward cleanup. On May 9, 2023, Bullock was found in contempt of the court’s cleanup order and fined $125,000. He was ordered to pay by June 30, 2023.

The contempt judgment ordered Bullock to have the site fully cleaned up by July 1, 2022. But on May 9, 2023, the court said Bullock had failed to comply, removing only 380 cubic yards of waste between Aug. 18, 2022, and Feb. 1, 2023.

“Bullock did not contest this evidence, and instead indicated that he wished to close the landfill in place and/or sell the property,” the judgment said. However, the contempt order explicitly required that Bullock continue to remove material prior to a sale or while preparing to close the landfill in place.”

Lips said Bullock has not paid the $1 million civil judgment, and Georgia EPD staff were unsure if he paid the $125,000 contempt fine.

The Superior Court clerk’s office did not respond to the question of whether Bullock paid the contempt fine.

Bullock, reached by phone, refused to say whether he had or would pay the judgment or contempt fine. He referred all inquiries to an attorney whom he would not name.

Georgia EPD identified Alvin Kendall as Bullock’s current lawyer. Kendall declined to comment.

In January the city of South Fulton hailed the site’s sale to 9606 Capital, saying the new owners gave Bullock plenty of time to move equipment off the site.

“It’s important to note that the occasional fires that may occur during this process are controlled incidents that are swiftly managed by onsite water trucks to prevent outbreaks from spreading,” a city news release said.