Landfill alert legislation introduced

A South Georgia legislator introduced legislation Tuesday requiring the state to alert residents and local governments when a landfill leaks.

Rep. Bill Werkheiser’s bill, HB 1028, comes a week after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a landfill near Jesup in southeast Georgia leached coal ash residue, including beryllium and other heavy metals, into the soil and groundwater.

The leakage at the Broadhurst Environmental Landfill was first reported to the state Environmental Protection Division in December 2011. More than two years passed before the landfill operator shuttered the coal ash facilities, according to EPD files.

State officials said that the metals, which could cause cancer and damage to the nervous system in sufficient quantities, may have also leached into the ground months, if not years, earlier. It’s not clear how much of the toxic metals leached into the ground, nor how far they might have traveled.

Republic Services, a national solid waste disposal company, began an extensive cleanup of the ash leakage last fall, and the EPD says there’s no evidence the metals have reached nearby wetlands.

Republic is pursuing plans that could allow it to accept millions of tons of coal ash annually, a possibility that has alarmed Wayne County residents and elected officials.

HB 1028 would require the EPD to tell landfill neighbors and local governments when a new landfill permit is requested; when a permit is later changed; and whenever “evidentiary indication of a violation” occurs.

“The process that has taken place in Wayne County has caught everyone off guard,” Rep. Werkheiser, R-Glennville, said in a statement. “We will not get a second chance to get this right, and we need to do what we can to rectify this situation going forward.”

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