A Hwy. 172 property in Madison County was recently used by Gainesville Waste and Recycling (GWAR) as a dump site for ash from Georgia Renewable Power’s Colbert plant, drawing an investigation by state environmental officials, and concern from local citizens, worried about the ash getting into local waterways. Meanwhile, GRP said the ash is not a hazardous material and better as fertilizer than chicken litter, but the company said the ash is being moved to GWAR's Gainesville facility.
The state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) said this week that the ash is in the process of being removed from the site at 8315 Hwy. 172.
The EPD issued a letter Jan. 22 to GWAR requiring the company to demonstrate that the ash at 8315 Hwy. 172 is an allowable “recovered material” in accordance with the state Comprehensive Solid Waste Act.
Charles D. Williams, District Manager of the Northeast District Office of the EPD, wrote GWAR, noting that EPD officials and the Madison County Code Enforcement Office were told that the ash was “being used as fill material to provide access to the (Hwy. 172) property by logging equipment.” They said they were told that the area covered by the ash would be “less than one acre and covered with crush and run.”
The company was commanded to provide written justification that the bottom ash meets the criteria of a recovered material and provide sampling of the ash by a certified laboratory. Williams also wrote that “bottom ash is not included in EPD’s guidance as a recovered material type of structured fill.” He said the company must show the ash “meets the appropriate mechanical properties” and be accompanied by a certified professional engineered plan to be reviewed by the local government. He also noted that if the ash is on land greater than one acre, then GWAR must get proper permitting from the EPD. GWAR was asked to submit these materials to the EPD by Feb. 7.
GRP president Steve Dailey responded to an inquiry on the matter, saying that GWAR is the “sole ash off taker” for GRP.
“GWAR has a large landfill, and they have presented us their landfill permit as well as their ‘beneficial use’ permit which is basically a permit granted by the EPD that if the material they have has a beneficial use, they can use it,” said Dailey. “We have the manifests of our ash disposal from GWAR where the majority of the ash is landfilled at their property; however, we have been made aware by the EPD that they have used some of the ash for beneficial use.”
Dailey said that ‘fly ash and bottom ash” are sampled at least once per week.
“We just had a sample result come back as early as late last week with no concerns,” said Dailey. “The ash is nutrient based and does not contain any hazardous material. Bottom ash from biomass facilities is normally just sand (or silica), and it is actually used heavily in concrete batching across the country. The fly ash can be used as fertilizer (for example at our Lumberton facility we sell the ash as fertilizer). The components are mostly potassium and phosphorous. We have actually had numerous farmers in the area approach us about taking our ash to spread on their fields (it is much better for the environment than spreading the chicken litter that the majority of farmers do in the area).”
Dailey said that “GWAR is a reputable landfill company in the area and has a long standing relationship with the EPD.”
“We trust that they are disposing of the ash in accordance with all of the laws and regulations of the state,” said Dailey. “The EPD has asked us to continue using GWAR to dispose of the ash and to not sell to farmers yet so they can verify that the ash is a positive impact to the environment. We are complying with this request.”
Ruth Ann Tesanovich of the Madison County Clean Power Coalition wrote a letter to local officials about the ash dumping.
“Although Georgia Renewable Power (GRP), may not be directly responsible for GWAR's improper ash dumping, this is another example of how the GRP Madison Biomass plant has created a variety of problems for Madison County and surrounding areas including health, quality of life, air, water, land, noise and light pollution,” wrote Tesanovich. “Additionally, it is hard for me to believe that GWAR, a permitted solid waste facility, doesn't know any better than to improperly spread bottom ash to use as a fill material.”
Tesanovich said she feels citizens voicing their concerns to local leaders is making a difference.
“It is my firm belief, that the GRP Madison Biomass plant would not be attempting to make various improvements such as moving the railroad cross tie chipping operation inside, taking measures to decrease fugitive emissions, reduce noise, etc. had it not been for citizen ‘watch-dog’ complaints and the resulting EPD investigations,” she wrote.