The board voted 4-0 to deny a settlement to ongoing litigation with the Bankhead C&D Transfer Station.
Commissioner Joann Birrell recused herself from the vote, citing her previous employment in the waste collection industry.
Tuesday’s vote means litigation between the county and Bankhead will likely continue over the disputed application for expansion of the facility on the southwest side of Veterans Memorial Highway and east of Discovery Boulevard in Mableton.
During Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, 67 residents turned out in opposition to the station, many of them holding signs that read “Vote NO! Bankhead Trash Transfer Station.”
Bankhead already runs a transfer station for construction debris at the site but wants to expand the operation to include household garbage.
The Board of Commissioners turned down its request in 2012, prompting the company to file suit in Cobb Superior Court. The two parties were ordered into mediation. The transfer station offered up a slightly revised proposal Tuesday that would still allow it to accept household garbage — a proposal commissioners voted to reject at the recommendation of Commissioner Lisa Cupid.
In a 2,800-word statement, Cupid outlined her reasons why the county should decline to settle the lawsuit.
Cupid said the owner of the transfer station had given her conflicting statements about the amount of waste that would be processed, as well as whether the facility would be enclosed.
She said storm water runoff from the site would add pollutants to the groundwater, such as phosphorus, nitrogen, zinc and lead, placing the nearby Chattahoochee River at risk. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division was recently on the property and found that Bankhead was not in compliance with its regulations, Cupid said.
Birds, mosquitoes and odors
The Georgia Business Aviation Association, according to Cupid, is concerned about the site attracting birds and thereby endangering pilots at the nearby Charlie Brown Airport in Fulton County.
Cupid said a physician shared with her a concern about an increase in mosquito-borne diseases, while nearby residents are worried about declining property values and odors.
Cupid said she received more than 1,000 signatures in opposition to the petition, while 110 residents turned out at a recent town hall meeting in opposition.
Cupid said the company has a record of causing problems in the past related to odors, loose trash on the property, noise and the unsightly manner in which the property is kept.
The Bankhead transfer station and the company that formerly operated on the site have received household trash at the site before, even though they have been told numerous times by county staff that they cannot accept such waste, she said.
“The applicant has established a track record for not abiding by county and state laws,” Cupid said.
While the Bankhead site is only licensed as a transfer station, from which debris is temporarily stored before it gets hauled away to landfills, Cupid suggested that an illegal landfill might exist on the site. She noted that the EPD said last year the site appears to have activity consistent with a landfill.
“When I asked EPD about what led them to believe that there was a landfill on the site, they stated that the dirt pile on the site appeared to have solid waste sticking out of the pile,” she said.
Next move up to Bankhead
Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee said the ball is now in Bankhead’s court.
“The applicant has a decision to make,” Lee said. “Number one, whether or not they want to continue the lawsuit in Superior Court, or they can drop the lawsuit and move on and come into compliance with EPA and Cobb code enforcement violations. It’s up to them. Right now this is an active lawsuit. This was a proposal, a settlement of litigation that was denied by the board, so it is up to them.”
Attorney Garvis Sams, who represents the transfer station, said it’s up to his client to decide what steps to take next.
“However, it is a strong lawsuit, and Georgia case and statutory law is clear that the BoC’s decision not to ratify the tentative settlement achieved through court-mandated mediation constitutes what the law defines as an abuse of discretion,” Sams said.