Satilla Riverkeeper joins Brantley County Commissioners in opposition to unlawful landfill
On September 7, Satilla Riverkeeper and the Southern Environmental Law Center filed an amicus brief in the Office of State Administrative Hearings supporting the Board of Commissioners of Brantley County’s opposition to a proposed landfill situated next to sensitive wetlands and private drinking water wells.
Located in a South Georgia neighborhood where many live below the poverty line, the landfill threatens the Brantley County community as well as the health of the Satilla River Basin. Local officials and community members overwhelmingly oppose the landfill and have complained repeatedly that they were not given timely and accurate information about the project. Despite this, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division recently issued a solid waste handling permit to Brantley County Development Partners, LLC to construct and operate a municipal solid waste landfill a stone’s throw from an elementary school.
The Brantley County Board of Commissioners is challenging the permit in administrative court, arguing that the Environmental Protection Division illegally issued the permit in violation of public notice and involvement requirements and the County’s solid waste management plan.
“The public was denied the opportunity to provide input when it mattered the most: before local decisions about the landfill were made,” says Chris Bertrand, Satilla Riverkeeper. “Allowing the community to come up to bat after the game was over defeated the purpose of state laws that require community engagement early in the landfill approval process. We hope the administrative court will protect the public and invalidate this permit.”
Brantley County is not a suitable place for a Landfill.
Recap: What has happened so far?
Facility Negotiations Process: Over 300 people signed a petition requesting that Brantley County initiate the Facility Issues Negotiations Process as described in the Georgia Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Act § 12-8-32. Satilla Riverkeeper is one of 10 serving on the Citizens Committee, attempting to negotiate safeguards for the community and the environment in case the project moves forward. After 45 days of the negotiations process, the Brantley County Development Partners refused to consider the safeguards the citizens and the County requested. A public meeting about the outcome of the process should be scheduled in early 2021.
Site Suitability: EPD invited public comments on Draft Site Limitations in December 2019. These Site Limitations were drafted based on the applicant's Site Suitability Report. EPD received 9,517 public comments, all but three were in opposition to the draft site limitations. On May 28, 2020, EPD issued a Site Suitability Notice, dismissing virtually all of the public's concerns. Read Satilla Riverkeeper's initial comment letter and supplemental comment letter. Read EPD's Responses to the public's concerns.
Sen. William Ligon introduced SB 384 that would prohibit any new landfills within 3 miles of the Satilla River. This bill would protect the river and nearby communities. This bill passed the Senate on March 12th, but stalled out in the House Committee on Rules in the final days of the session in July.