Ex-DOT official guilty of bribery; illegal dumping cost put at $2.5M

An ex-foreman with the Georgia Department of Transportation has pleaded guilty to bribery for allowing unsuitable dirt to be dumped at sites in metro Atlanta, prosecutors said.

The cleanup cost for environmental damage caused by the dumping is estimated at $2.5 million, according to a media release Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

George H. Bell, 49, of Lithonia, accepted cash bribe payments from owners of an unnamed dirt hauling company from April to October 2014, prosecutors said. Bell then allowed that company to dump dirt at various DOT sites. The payments totaled about $15,000, prosecutors said.

About 1,000 truck loads of the unsuitable dirt was dumped at sites in Stone Mountain and DeKalb County, prosecutors said. Also, dumping was allowed at a protected wetlands site as well as a site where the dirt entered Stone Mountain lake.

The dirt was unsuitable because it is removed from construction or landscaping projects that can’t be built upon in the future. In this case, the dirt contained debris such as nails, pieces of metal, and concrete fragments.

Bell worked for the DOT for about 15 years, prosecutors said. By the end of his career, his duties included overseeing maintenance and repairs of the state’s roadway system.

Bell’s sentencing is scheduled for June 29. He could receive five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.