Coal ash riles South Georgia

It started with a corporate apology and, right away, it became clear this wasn’t going to be an ordinary public hearing in Jesup on Wednesday to discuss an environmental permit needed for a landfill expansion.

Republic Services, which owns the solid-waste landfill in a quiet and forested corner of Wayne County, acknowledged a lack of openness and candor in its dealings with the community. Locals, for example never learned that toxic metals at the garbage dump had leached from coal ash into the soil and groundwater until The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported it this year.

Nor was the citizenry publicly informed until recently that Republic plans to brings up to 10,000 tons daily of coal ash to the Broadhurst Environmental Landfill about 10 miles below town. No, Republic’s apology — “We let you down,” said spokesman Russ Knocke — failed to mollify the simmering crowd of 500 locals crammed into, and spilling outside of, the auditorium at Coastal Pines Technical College.

“Does a respected and reputable corporate citizen take a regional landfill and turn it into a national dump without a word to the community in which it’s located?” asked former U.S. Rep. Lindsay Thomas, who grew up in the nearby town of Screven where the landfill sits, as Knocke and a colleague sat stoically nearby. “As the old country song says, ‘Republic gets the gold mine and we get the shaft.’”

Knocke, who said Republic “failed” the citizens of Wayne County, nonetheless vowed that Broadhurst will one day be “an asset” to the community.

“Broadhurst Landfill is a remarkable landfill,” he said. “It’s a breathtakingly beautiful site.”

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