The man who owns the South Fulton property where an unlicensed landfill has been smoldering for five months has been arrested a third time, according to officials at a press conference Thursday.
State Rep. Debra Bazemore, D-Riverdale, gathered South Fulton’s chiefs of police and fire in downtown Atlanta to speak to the media about the ongoing six-acre fire. An environmental board voted Friday to spend $500,000 in public funds to extinguish the fire.
South Fulton police chief Keith Meadows said that the owner, Tandy Ross Bullock, was re-arrested the day before Valentine’s Day.
They have characterized him as a man of means but one unwilling to extinguish the 60-foot-high burning mountain of trash that has been spewing smoke into neighborhoods near Bishop Road for nearly half a year.
Bullock was first arrested Nov. 19 on a charge of illegal burning but was released the next day on a bond of $500,000, according to jail records. A clerk at the jail said Bullock was arrested for the second time on Dec. 6 and spent six days behind bars. He has already served eight days on the most recent arrest.
His attorneys have previously declined to comment to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Bazemore said officials still want Bullock to pay for any clean-up.
It’s necessary to pay a contractor to work on the fire because South Fulton’s firefighters aren’t equipped for the specialized job. The $500,000 was taken from the Georgia Solid Waste Trust Fund that collects $1 on every new tire sold in the state.
City fire chief Larry Few told reporters Thursday that his firefighters put the surface blaze out in a few hours when it started Sept. 20, but they realized the next day that it was still smoking.
He said they didn’t want to keep pouring more water on it because the runoff could have hurt water systems.
“We have to account for every gallon of water we expend,” he said.
Federal health authorities have said that air quality tests show the smoke isn’t expected to cause long-term health problems for nearby residents, but contact can cause nausea along with headaches and irritation to the throat and eyes. They warned those with existing breathing and heart conditions to avoid the area.
Beyond health effects, residents have been dealing with a sulfur odor and constant haze.
Few said he was out there for 30 minutes one day and “I couldn’t even walk indoors with the clothes I had on.” He called it a “horror” for residents, many of whom say they’ve been asking for help for months.
Bazemore and the chiefs also emphasized the closeness of two schools to the burn site.
“Our children are impacted by that atmosphere down here,” Few said.
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