Cleanup will cost thousands
By Ben Nelms
The level of contamination
There is no easy way to put it. Contamination from the large, solvent-based chemical plume flowing from the old Jefferson County landfill in Louisville has moved underground for years. Now in its wake is the possible contamination of groundwater under private property, the cost involved in addressing the problem and the deadline issued July 2 by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to remediate the problem.
"It has boiled down to this point," said county administrator James Rogers at the Sept. 3 commission work session. "That EPD is ready for us to make a proposal to them as to how we propose to handle the situation that we have out there that has developed over the years with the contamination moving away from our property."
Rogers said the county previously installed water lines for homeowners adjacent to the landfill on the right-of-way along portions of Clarks Mill Road and may need to take the measure a step further.
The current status of groundwater contamination originating at the old landfill does not pose a drinking water threat to any existing private wells, according to representatives from landfill Atlanta consulting firm QORE Property Sciences.
"In terms of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) I don't believe any (private wells) have that problem," said QORE hydrogeologist Curt Gorman.
But concerns issued in a July 2 letter from EPD geologist Steve McManus referenced the requirement that the county submit a corrective action plan to address the remediation of the potential or existing contamination to private wells near the facility. McManus included more than six pages of comments and questions for QORE stemming from their January 31 contamination assessment report and an April 17 addendum. He also referred to the county's past problems in meeting submittal deadlines. The county is required to submit the corrective action plan by Oct. 31 or face a consent order and a $100 per day penalty for the delinquency.
Central to the problems originating at the site is an underground plume that has moved off county property and, according to McManus, has traveled approximately one-half mile. Gorman told commissioners Sept. 3 the movement occurred down gradient, or toward a lower elevation, and encompasses an area that well exceeds 50 acres in size. The plume exists in two sections and consists of groundwater contaminated with a number of volatile organic compounds (VOC), such as industrial solvents like 1,2-dichloroethene and the compounds that are formed as those solvents break down. Gorman said a main area of the plume has moved under Clarks Mill Road. One section of the plume is located more than 30 feet underground and the other, situated under a layer of kaolin, lies at a depth approaching 100 feet.
The plume is generally moving to the south and southwest and, to a lesser degree, to the north-northwest at a rate of 50-100 feet per year. McManus said recently that while the overall concentrations of VOCs in the plume are decreasing the central portions remain significant.
QORE geologist L.T. Gregg said private wells are in no current danger even though tests show the presence of contaminants.
"The plume has effected a number of properties in the sense that the contaminants that are present are over federal drinking water levels," he said. "Of course, there is no danger to anybody at this point unless in certain areas you would happen to put in a well."
Gregg said QORE agreed with EPD's recommendation that the county prohibit the installation of new wells in the affected area. Such a prohibition might help the county acquire money from the state Hazardous Sites Inventory (HSI) Trust Fund. Both McManus and Gorman said last week that the contents of the plume will likely dissipate prior to reaching Rocky Comfort Creek.
Responding to questions by commissioners about the money involved in remedying the contamination, Gorman said the cost would be considerable.
"The expense of trying to actively remediate these areas would be quite large," said Gorman. "If we were to attempt to remediate the whole area of the plume, I'm afraid it would cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars and possibly more. We are likely to suggest that the worst part of the plumes be treated and monitored to see how effective it is. And this will largely be off the landfill property as we have seen at this time with the worst part being down gradient across Avera (Clarks Mill) Road. We might have a slightly different view of that when we present it to you at the hearing."
Both EPD and QORE said the county would be responsible for paying the cost of the work. Some portion of those expenses should be reimbursable because the facility is listed on Georgia Environmental Protection Division's (EPD) Hazardous Sites Inventory, said Rogers. He said QORE was instrumental in getting the old landfill placed on EPD's HSI list.
Commenting on another cost-sensitive issue, Gorman said the installation of additional wells will be required to monitor both the remediation and natural dissipation of the VOCs. He also told commissioners that the contamination in the nearby private wells could have been caused on-site by leaching from septic systems on the properties rather than from the plumes originating at the landfill.
He said two test wells installed between the landfill and the private wells show no contamination when checked. Gorman and Gregg said their monitoring conclusions do not match those of EPD, which they said tends to be ultra-conservative in its approach.
In an attempt to assist the commission with the significant expense that lies ahead, Gorman and Gregg suggested that commissioners consider requesting the assistance of some of legislators to meet with EPD after the public meeting.
They said the idea would be to garner support from legislators who can deal with the upper levels of EPD. They also suggested that the county consider obtaining the services of a specialized legal counsel due to the magnitude of the contamination issues at hand.
The old landfill was used by residents and businesses for several years prior to its being permitted in July 1979. Permit requirements at the time did not include the type of linings and other environmental safeguards now in use at landfills nationwide.
Jefferson County's plans to remediate the groundwater contamination issuing from the old landfill will be presented at the public meeting scheduled for Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. at the courthouse in Louisville.
Documents relating to the public meeting are available for public inspection during regular business hours at the commission office at 217 E. Broad Street in Louisville.
Accidents claim two lives over weekend
By Ben Nelms
Two separate vehicle accidents within six hours Friday night in Jefferson County resulted in the deaths of a Stapleton man and an Augusta man and serious injuries to a Gibson woman.
Stapleton resident Ricky Wayne Gay, 43, was killed and 50 year-old Gibson resident Kathy Coleman suffered serious injury when the Chevrolet Tahoe they rode in overturned on US Highway 221 north of Butcher Pen Road at approximately 2 a.m. Saturday.
The vehicle was traveling south on Highway 221 when the accident occurred.
Both occupants were ejected from the vehicle, rolled over three times, according to Georgia State Patrol Trooper Al Davis. Gay died at the scene.
Coleman was transported to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where she is listed in serious but stable condition after being treated for pelvic injuries and shock trauma. Neither of the occupants were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
Officers at the scene noted that the rear wheel, rim and brake drum on the passenger's side had broken completely off the axle.
Davis said that circumstances relating to the accident are under investigation.
Earlier Friday night a one-vehicle motorcycle accident in northwest Jefferson County resulted in the death of a 22 year-old Augusta man.
Raymond Charlton James, of 1158 Piney Grove Road, was killed shortly after 6 p.m. after his Suzuki motorcycle overturned as he traveled west on Noah Station Road, according to Deputy Coroner Mike Bennett. The accident appeared to have occurred as Mr. James attempted to make a correction after the cycle ran onto the shoulder of the road, according to officers on the scene.
The motorcycle traveled 84 feet along the shoulder and another 73 feet after entering the roadway, according to the Georgia State Patrol trooper at the scene. The motorcycle began to skid after re-entering the highway. The cycle overturned during the skid, causing Mr. James to loose control and suffer fatal head trauma as the cycle came to rest. He was not wearing a motorcycle helmet. Officers said Mr. James appeared to have been driving within the speed limit.
Legitimacy of county ordinances challenged
By Ben Nelms
It is customary in Jefferson County and in those across America for citizens to sometimes question the actions of their local governments. In a move not so customary, some of those actions will be questioned later this month in Jefferson County Superior Court.
In his petition to the court, county resident Ben Benson alleges that numerous issues relating to county ordinances adopted by commissioners between March 1995 and January 2002 did not comply with state law or with the Jefferson County Code. He also alleges that the commission violated portions of the Georgia Open Meetings and Open Records laws.
Benson said he is asking the court to annul or invalidate some of the improper actions by commissioners, such as adopting ordinances affecting residents countywide without following the guidelines for proper public notification as required by county and state law.
"Hopefully the judge will nullify the ordinances that were passed improperly and illegally," said Benson. "And, hopefully, when these ordinances come up again county residents will speak up and actually not let them pass because a lot of people in the county have voiced the opinion that they don't like some of these ordinances. This will give residents a second chance to defeat them."
In the past year Benson has been one of the most outspoken county residents to request that the commission comply with mandatory notifications relating to public meetings and access to public records.
He said his repeated questions concerning many of the issues in the petition went unanswered by commissioners during the past year. A part of the reason for requesting a hearing is for the court to rule on those issues.
"It will hopefully get the county (commission) following proper state Open Records and Open Meetings laws," said Benson. "A lot of records of the meetings are not available to the public. And as for open meetings, and according to the Jefferson County Code, they need to post a notification of all meetings in the courthouse."
Contacted Monday concerning the possible comments relating to the commission's perspective on the allegations, county attorney Mickey Moses had no comment.