Members of the Exchange Club of Richmond Hill got a little more insight Wednesday about a trashy subject when Ben Wall with Atlantic Waste Services gave a presentation about the proposed solid waste landfill in North Bryan County.
During the club’s bi-monthly meeting at the Richmond Hill City Center, Wall said Atlantic Waste Services is in the process of moving forward with the landfill but still has quite a ways to go.
“Right now, we’re waiting to hear back from a group down in Brunswick called the DRI (Developments of Regional Impact), or the CRC,” Wall said. “They are the ones who look at projects that impact the entire region.”
Wall explained that the property for the landfill is about 1,167 acres, but the footprint of the landfill, proposed to be located off of Olive Branch Road in the Black Creek community, would encompass 268 acres of the land, between I-16 and a “swampy area” of Black Creek.
He added the facility’s closest point to Black Creek would be about 1,200 feet, and there would be a 200-foot buffer to prevent sight into the facility.
Wall said once they get a response from the DRI/CRC, Atlantic Waste will continue discussions with the county about amending an ordinance that prohibits a landfill from being built off of a county road. Right now, according to Wall, the county ordinance says a landfill must be built on a state or federal road. But Wall and his associates are hoping to change that.
According to County Administrator Phil Jones, Atlantic Waste has submitted an application for the aforementioned text amendment request That request will have to go through both the Bryan County Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Commissioners – but it cannot be considered by either board until the landfill plans are approved by the DRI, Jones said.
“In turn, for them to change the ordinance, we will pay (the county) for (upgrades to) Olive Branch road,” Wall said. “It’s about a mile road we’ll upgrade and pay for. It’s going to cost us some money, but the county will not have to worry about maintaining that road.”
Wall said they would pay the county about $600,000 to upgrade the road, and the company would be responsible for the road’s upkeep, as well as cleaning any debris that may wind up alongside the road. He added there is enough right-of-way on both sides to widen the road and upgrade the weight limit to allow trucks in and out of the facility.
If Atlantic Waste Services gets the text amendment passed, the company then has to submit an application to rezone the proposed property for the landfill. That application, which has not been submitted, will also have to go through the planning and zoning board and county commissioners for final approval.
“We don’t feel like we’ll be at planning and zoning probably until December,” he said.
Wall said if the rezoning is approved, they must then obtain permits, create designs that must be approved by the state and run tests before construction actually begins.
“By the time this thing is truly operational, it’s about three years is what we’re looking at as far as the first day,” he said. “It’s a long process, but it’s what you have to do to make sure everybody is happy.”
Also in his presentation, Wall gave members a brief overview of what the facility would look like, and discussed the economic impacts of adding a landfill in this area.
Wall said adding the landfill would initially bring 50 construction jobs and eventually around 14 permanent jobs that would pay around $20 per hour for operators, landfill managers and mechanics. The payroll for the landfill would be around $750,000 per year, he said.
Another economic benefit, Wall said, would be a decrease in transportation costs and host fees for the county. He explained that to operate a landfill in Georgia, the county where it operates receives a host fee, which is essentially a tax.
“We have decided that for the first five years that we operate, we’ll pay the minimum ($1 per ton), and then that’ll increase to about $1.50 per ton, and we anticipate (taking in) around 1,000 tons (of solid waste) per day.
“So when you multiply $1.50 times 1,000 tons a day, you get $500,000 per year that goes straight to Bryan County to the government,” Wall said, adding the money could be used for whatever the county deems necessary.
Wall said right now a lot of the county’s waste is being picked up and taken to Port Wentworth, and then trucked 100 miles in one direction. He added that Richmond Hill’s waste is being trucked to the landfill on Little Neck Road in Savannah owned by Superior Landfill and Recycling.
“That is somewhat of a high cost site, but since Superior knows that the next closest option is 100 miles away and that you have to do all that work, they price it accordingly,” Wall said.
By housing a landfill in the county and not having to transport all the waste that distance, Wall said the entire coastal region could benefit from this proposed landfill. Tipping fees, which are the cost per ton for disposal, currently costs the state’s coastal region of between $45 and $55 per ton compared to a state average of around $36 per ton, according to Wall. By adding a landfill in this region, it would lower tipping costs, he said.
Wall also explained the construction of the proposed landfill. The bottom layer would be two feet of compacted clay topped with a plastic synthetic liner that lines the entire bottom of the facility, he said.
The next layer would be a leachate system, which collects water from rainfall and allows it to be vacuumed out and sent to a wastewater treatment facility or treated on site. A bed of rocks would top that to help water filter through, and then a layer of sand would be on top of the rocks. On top of the sand, Wall said, is where the first layer of waste would be.
Much opposition has been voiced from members of the community since the topic first went public in March of this year. Darden Copeland, also with Atlantic Waste Services, said the company understands the opposition, and they are trying to work with and educate people about the topic.
“We want to be as transparent about this as we can,” Copeland said.
To provide community members with a more information and detailed updates of the progress, Copeland said Atlantic Waste recently purchased a new Internet domain specifically for the project, www.atlantic-wastedisposal.com.