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Hearings set on sludge ordinance

POSTED: August 22, 2012 4:00 a.m.

County commissioners are considering an ordinance that would ban the application of Class B sewage sludge in residential areas.

According to Commission Chairman Mike Berg, the need for such an ordinance surfaced after developer Ken Curren asked the state Environmental Protection Division to amend the Hampton Creek Water Reclamation Facility sludge management plan.

The request would allow Curren to deposit partially treated liquid waste from the plant in nearby Forsyth County on about 65 acres at Lumpkin Campground and Harry Sosebee roads in Dawson County.

Dawson County Attorney Joey Homans drafted the proposed ordinance, which cites the nation's Clean Water Act that "permits local governments to determine the manner" sludge can be deposited.

The first of two required public hearings on the proposed ordinance is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 6 during the commission's regularly scheduled meeting. The final hearing will be Sept. 20, after which the commission could vote on the measure.

Homans, however, cautioned the commission that the state Supreme Court struck down a similar ordinance in the 1990s, after Franklin County attempted to regulate sludge beyond state regulations.

"The fact that the Georgia Supreme Court struck down that ordinance - deemed it invalid, unconstitutional and unenforceable - the only option would be that you would ban a certain type of sludge and in this case what I've drafted in the ordinance would be Class B sludge," Homans said.

Curren met with neighboring property owners last month to discuss his plans, which call for applying 55 dry tons of liquid Class B biosolids annually on the 160-acre tract that was initially zoned for a residential subdivision.

According to EPD's Web site, Class B biosolids are treated but still contain detectible levels of pathogens.

There also are requirements for buffers, as well as public access and crop harvesting restrictions.

More than 200 people who live near the proposed dumping site, as well as other concerned residents and business leaders, attended an information gathering session that followed last week's commission meeting.

Among their concerns were potential pathogens seeping into the water supply and diminishing property values if the application is approved.

Concerns that odors could drive business away from North Georgia Premium Outlets, the county's greatest sales tax revenue generator, were also aired.

Charlie Auvermann, executive director for the Development Authority of Dawson County, spoke on behalf of Simon Property Group, which owns the outlet mall.

Auvermann reminded the commission about how a dog food company had considered locating within a mile of the outlet mall several years back.

"There was a tremendous amount of effort researched on the odor implications of that project," he said. "That project went away, fortunately, but at that time there was a lot of discussion about the county's odor ordinance.

"This might be a good opportunity to revisit odor ordinance at the same time."

Planning Director David McKee facilitated the question-and-answer session and outlined areas of concern the county plans to present to EPD in its objections to the application.

"Within one mile of the property is 15 percent of Dawson County's population," he said.

McKee also cited the land's topography, the vast number of wells in the area and the property's residential zoning designation.

"The property is surrounded by residential on all sides," he said.

In addition, McKee said there are no other sludge disposal sites in the region.

"I'm going to have to go to probably south Georgia to see one, and when I go it's probably going to be composted sludge," he said.

Curren, who did not attend last week's meeting, has said land application is a viable alternative to sludge disposal and the Dawson County property is the closest applicable site, at about four miles away, for the application.

There would also be a savings to haul the sludge, which currently is hauled to a landfill about 40 miles away.

Homans said he has sent a letter to both Curren and EPD objecting to amending the application and to the meeting held in Forsyth County.

The letter also requests a public hearing by EPD, "not the applicant," Homans said. "The place of the hearing should be where people are impacted."

The commission encouraged the public to submit to the EPD their fact-based objections to the application.

And Jane Graves, president of the Dawson County Homeowners and Civic Organization, offered a petition for signatures.

 

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