State says unlicensed burning Fulton landfill owner isn’t cleaning up

State environmental authorities want to put a man in contempt of court after he failed to clean up his once-smoldering unlicensed landfill in a South Fulton neighborhood.

A state court in early summer decided that Tandy Ross Bullock had violated the Georgia Comprehensive Solid Waste Act. A judge ordered Bullock to remove at least 12,000 cubic yards of waste — or enough to fill 1,200 large dumptrucks — from his six-acre site by Oct. 1. That amounts to 2.5% of the estimated 450,000 cubic yards of construction and site preparation debris — concrete, rebar, stumps and the like. Bullock was also fined $1,084,550.

Environmental Protection Division spokesman Kevin Chambers told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday, three weeks after the deadline, that Bullock hadn’t followed instructions.

Chambers said EPD and the state attorney general's office will ask a judge to put Bullock in contempt of court. It's up to a judge, but a possible punishment includes Bullock being arrested, which has happened at least three times during this saga.

Bullock’s attorney Fred Rushing said Tuesday they are appealing the court’s Oct. 1 deadline. “We disagree with what they’re saying,” he said.

Rep. Debra Bazemore, a Democrat and head of the South Fulton delegation, said Bullock was being defiant. “Now there needs to be another step taken.”

It is not clear how the landfill fire began, but from Sept. 20 to May 16 the 60-foot-high smoldering mountains of debris coughed up smoke and chemicals into a quiet residential neighborhood about 13 miles southwest of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

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At one point, the state had $500,000 budgeted for an outside contractor to put out the fire. But the state didn't need to use the money after finding Bullock had put out the fire himself.

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.

Summits of smoldering rubbish don’t happen overnight. Fulton County started received complaints in 2007 about Bullock running a landfill without a permit and cited him. The piles became unstable. Court records show that the EPD first struck a deal with Bullock to reduce the amount of solid waste on the property in 2013. The EPD visited the site 40 times between June 2017 and April 2019 and documented the growing mounds, as detailed in court paperwork that gave Bullock the Oct. 1 deadline.

As for the million-dollar fine, Chambers said Tuesday that Bullock hadn’t paid.

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Story so far

After years of waste growing into 60-foot mountains, an unlicensed landfill in South Fulton caught fire Sept. 20.

The state approved spending $500,000 in public funds to extinguish the fire, but that wasn't needed because the state found the property owner has extinguished the flames on May 16.

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

In early summer, a judge fined the owner $1 million and gave him 120 days to remove 12,000 cubic yards of waste — or enough to fill 1,200 large dumptrucks — from the property.