The Decatur County Landfill off U.S. 27 South near Attapulgus is filling up more quickly than previously expected, leading the county administrator to put county commissioners “on notice” that decisions would need to be made soon to avert a future crisis.
“I’m not saying we should panic, but it’s time to be concerned and it’s time to consider our options,” Decatur County Administrator Alan Thomas told Decatur County commissioners at their meeting meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Thomas made the comments in reference to a report by Harbin Engineering, civil and environmental consultants based in Forsyth, Ga. Steve Harbin has been Decatur County’s consulting engineer on its landfill project going back the mid-2000s.
The landfill is currently depositing solid waste into Cell No. 4, which opened in Summer 2014. Earlier this year, ground was broken on the 12.7 acre Cell 5, which is significantly larger than previous cells and will boost the landfill’s capacity.
Based on a study conducted earlier in 2015, Harbin had estimated the landfill as it currently exists has an estimated lifespan of about 3.2 years before it fills up. However, this summer the county landfill began accepting a new waste stream from the BASF Corporation, which operates mines near Attapulgus. The new waste stream has increased the landfill’s intake from an average of 300 tons a day to more than 600 tons a day on some days, Harbin wrote.
At the current pace, the landfill has a revised lifespan of about 1.6 years, according to Harbin. County Administrator Thomas said it’s estimated the construction of Cell 5 will take 2 to 2.5 years from the present. Therefore, if nothing is done, Decatur County would have nowhere to store its solid waste for 5-11 months.
(Editorial Note: Needless to say, that would be disastrous, although it’s unlikely that would be allowed to happen. Decatur County, which makes more than $2 million a year in revenue on the landfill, would have to pay another landfill operator to accept the county’s waste and potentially lose customers that haul garbage to the U.S. 27 landfill).
“I want us to get ahead of this and I assure you, I will be making recommendations in the near future,” Thomas said.
Harbin’s report notes the county government has the opportunity to continue operating the landfill and expand it, or sell the landfill. The report also projects the income Decatur County could receive in several scenarios.
Thomas said he recommends Decatur County continue to operate the landfill itself, because it generates millions of dollars of annual revenue at relatively low cost.
We asked Thomas what options county commissioners might explore to prevent the landfill from filling up before the completion of Cell 5, which would add almost 10 years to the landfill’s lifespan.
- The county could assign more labor and resources to finishing Cell 5 before the deadline.
- The county could seek to limit or reduce the amount of waste being brought to the landfill.
“I would not be in favor of turning any existing customer away, but at the same time, we would have to carefully consider whether to add on new business until Cell 5 is completed,” Thomas said.
What’s in the BASF waste stream
In April, Decatur County commissioners signed off on a contract with BASF which states the county landfill will accept 14,400 tons of non-hazardous solid waste, at a cost of $17/ton. The waste is being hauled by Cherokee Equipment of Decatur County, which picks up loads from BASF on Englehard Road in Attapulgus and takes it to the county landfill, 8.8 miles away. The contract states the loads contain: “Mixture of clay (kaolin), sodium silicate, ammonium nitrate, aluminum oxide, lanthanum oxide, sodium nitrate, titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide.”
The materials are classified as non-hazardous.
Download or read the 7-page report, 2015 Remaining Capacity at the Decatur County Landfill: