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July 7, 2014

Timber sale helping stagnant landfill cost

MILLEDGEVILLE — Harvested pine and hardwood trees in the Baldwin County owned Union Hill Church Road tract will net the county just over $123,000 to assist the ever costly municipal solid waste landfill in that area.

Baldwin County Commissioners signed off on a timber sale agreement with Rutherford Timber Harvesting out of Gray Tuesday.

County Manager Ralph McMullen said the funds would go toward required Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division (EPD) maintenance and closure preparation.

In January, county commissioners approved a consent order handed down by EPD to enter closure phase by March 2016.

“We have to make sure we maintain the landfill and all permits in the interim,” McMullen said. “We may have 24 months to start closure, but that doesn't matter. We still have to maintain it.”

The county has been unable to close the landfill due to budget limitations, as they await sufficient Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds to complete the project without borrowing.

EPD was patient with the county for several years until County Attorney David McRee said they turned up the pressure in 2013 wanting detailed closure plans.

EPD regulators found “conditions at the facility that placed it out of compliance with acceptable operating standards” three times since 2007. As of January, the latest violation letter came on Sept. 4, 2013.

This consent order guarantees that all sides know the terms for action with dates to meet.

Baldwin County has owned and operated three contiguous landfills on Union Hill Church Road since the 1980s. EPD originally permitted the final Phase 3 in 1994. Twenty-one acres of the 75-acre permitted footprint includes a bottom liner system.

Dumped tonnage averaged 100 per day through 2002, falling to 73 tons per day by 2005. In 2007, the county decided to cease operations at the landfill, accepting no more public trash.

Since the closure, the county continued dumping limited self-generated waste at Phase 3 to maintain permits.

Attempts to sell the facility for a revenue bump failed.

Old capping process and initial post-closure care estimations hovered around $2.5 million. Based on the average SPLOST collection rate, the county would fall short of that figure.

“We still don't know what the bottom line figure is going to be on that closure. We are hopefully building up the SPLOST funds,” McMullen said. “We are doing everything thing we can to be ready.”

 

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