Waste station expansion bid denied by BoC
by Jon Gillooly
March 20, 2013 12:00 AM | 4643 views | 3 3 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pictured is the crowd at Tuesday morning's Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting where the commissioners voted 4-0 to deny a settlement to ongoing litigation with the Bankhead C&D regional waste site.
Pictured is the crowd at Tuesday morning's Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting where the commissioners voted 4-0 to deny a settlement to ongoing litigation with the Bankhead C&D regional waste site.
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MARIETTA — Nearly 70 residents who turned out in opposition to the expansion of a waste transfer station let out a cheer as the Cobb Board of Commissioners blocked that expansion on Tuesday by refusing to settle a lawsuit.

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.

Comments
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anonymous
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March 20, 2013
Commissioner Cupid displayed great leadership at the meeting yesterday. We are extremely grateful to her for holding BTS accountable for their harmful and hurtful actions within our community. Her comments were thoughtful and clearly revealed that she had undertaken the analytical and factual work that should have been performed by county staff - whose salaries we pay - because of the serious nature of this matter and the long term implications associated with it.

As we wait for this matter to make its way to Superior Court, it is time for the Cobb County Manager and other county officials to hold BTS accountable for their transgressions as it relates to their ongoing violations of local and state laws. They have been given more than enough time to get into compliance – but they are not motivated to do so. By my estimate, they owe the county thousands of dollars in fines, dating back to 2010 when they were first cited for their illegal activity within our community. If they cannot pay their fines and if they continue to refuse to make the changes recommended by EPD, the county should take the necessary steps to shut this business down.

As for BTS and their legal threats, they continue to mislead the public. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that one Commissioner “cannot bind the County to an agreement”. Approval of a settlement is a legislative action that the entire board must agree to accept. As it relates to BTS, the BOC unanimously rejected the proposed settlement and they were fully justified in their action given the information that Commissioner Cupid placed into record. BTS continues to ignore the truth related to their illegal actions in our community. BTS's legal arguments can best be compared to a Puff Adder - a snake that blows itself up to make it seem more menacing than what it is. Cobb can win this case in court and the community will be there to make sure that BTS loses again.

Beverly McMurray
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March 19, 2013
Commissioner Lisa Cupid did a very thorough job of researching this issue and in presenting her findings before she recommended that the proposed settlement not be accepted. Congratulations to Commissioner Cupid on a job well done!
legacymableton
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March 19, 2013
I was present for this vote today and it is wonderful news for the Mableton community.

Commissioner Cupid did an amazing job of systematically working through ALL of the reasons why this landfill should not be allowed to continue. She obviously did some genuine research and leg work citing specific conversations she had with the BTS ownership and various government agencies. That combined with hundreds of emails/calls, pilot opposition, opposition from Wieland, unresolved citations from the county and the EPA, years of illegal operation, Fulton county commissioners being opposed, and a petition with over 800 signatures was hopefully enough to end this.

Very happy about the outcome. Now we need to hold BTS accountable for their existing, years-long violation of their existing permits.
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