On Monday, representatives from Cobb County Code Enforcement and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division visited the Bankhead C&D Transfer Station in Mableton, which has a hearing set for March 19 before the Cobb Board of Commissioners, said EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers. The station is looking to get a permit that would allow the 8.1-acre site to take in household trash in addition to the construction and demolition waste it now is licensed to accept.
But Chambers said the environmental regulators told transfer station operators they aren’t even in compliance with their current license, which allows the station to take in commercial and demolition waste that is then hauled by larger trucks to a landfill.
Concerns from state
The state agency gave Bankhead a week to come up with a corrective action plan to address a building where waste is taken, which fails to meet requirements that it be fully enclosed on three sides. Part of the siding on the building doesn’t reach all the way to the ground.
“A lot of stuff is blowing around, and there’s a lot of litter, which (Bankhead’s operator) also has to pick up,” Chambers said.
Bankhead is also responsible for building a liquid drainage system that connects to the county sewer system, Chambers said.
Cobb Community Development Director Rob Hosack, who oversees the county’s code enforcement, said that in order to build the drain, Bankhead will have to remove a dirt berm designed to hide it from view of area businesses and residents.
The corrective action plan, which shows what the company plans to do to address the problems brought up by the state and how it plans to do it, will also be required to address a fuel tank on site that contains petroleum residue needing to be cleaned up, Chambers said. If the plan isn’t completed within a week, a consent order may be issued.
“It puts down on paper what they have done, what they need to do to correct it,” he said of the order. “It may or may not come with a monetary penalty.”
Hosack said that when Bankhead’s operator was informed of the violation, he told inspectors he avoided making the changes out of concern that he would just need to redo the work if the Board of Commissioners approves the facility’s expansion.
“The guy from EPD told them, ‘I don’t care what extra money you are going to have to spend, this is what you have to do now,” Hosack said.
Transfer station attorney Garvis Sams declined comment, saying it is against his firm’s policy to discuss pending cases.
Residents don’t buy excuses
Shelia Edwards, director of Legacy Cares, a group of neighbors formed to fight the transfer station’s expansion, said the transfer station has a long history of problems, but has continued to operate. Bankhead was fined by the county in January and March 2012 for taking in household garbage without a permit.
“Why is this company, with such noxious uses right next to our homes, being allowed to skirt the law from a local and state perspective?” Edwards said. “They’ve been taking in waste since 2009, and they’ve never had that permit in place. Who gets to do that? We’re not in a Third World country.”
After the Cobb Planning Commission approved Bankhead’s request to take in up to 150,000 tons of household garbage annually, the Board of Commissioners unanimously rejected its request in May 2012.
In between the votes, a Georgia Department of Transportation report advised that the transfer station could draw birds if it accepted household trash, possibly posing a threat to planes taking off and landing at Fulton County-Charlie Brown Airport, located just across the Chattahoochee River.
Up for a vote March 19
But GDOT later changed its opinion because of what an agency spokesman called a misunderstanding, believing that the transfer station was actually a landfill.
That decision helped lead to a tentative settlement agreement to a lawsuit brought by Bankhead’s owners after the county rejected their permit request. Commissioners are expected to vote on the settlement at their March 19 zoning hearing.
Edwards said the airport threat isn’t over yet.
With the Federal Aviation Administration shutting down the control tower at Charlie Brown, as it has done at McCollum Field-Cobb County Airport in Kennesaw, due to recent sequestration cuts, Edwards said pilots there are even more concerned about the possibility of birds interfering with planes.
“Those planes are now going to have to come in on their own,” she said.