Area Residents Concerned About Proposed EPD Rule Changes on Composting

Local residents and officials travel to Atlanta to express concerns over proposed state rule changes that would affect composting facilities, like the Wilbros facility on Rose Lane.

A public hearing on the proposed rule changes was held Tuesday in Atlanta.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division is proposing changes to rules regarding Solid Waste Management at composting facilities.

According to officials with the EPD, the rule changes would take the permitting process for composting facilities from a one size fits all process to a tiered structure with different rules for different facilities.

One of the proposed rule changes would call for a 500-foot setback for certain classes of composting facilities, such as Wilbros, from nearby residences.

However, local resident and credit union CEO Brian Akin said that does not go far enough.

“The suggested buffer zones of 500 feet, as would probably be the case in Toccoa, are a joke,” said Akin.  “There is no other way to say it.  The smell is experienced at times, miles away.  That would do nothing to help in this circumstance.  Also, these buffers do not consider businesses, schools, churches, or anything else in that zone, just residences and wells.”

28th District State House Representative Dan Gasaway agreed, calling for a 5,000-foot, or in some cases, a 10,000 foot setback.

Gasaway said though that even a setback of that distance would not be sufficient at times in the case of Wilbros.

Meanwhile, another concern expressed by local residents was that language specifically referring to compost as “odor-free” was being stricken from the rules under the proposal.

Bryan Dooley called that “unacceptable.”

“Who is protecting the people?” asked Dooley about that proposed change.

The EPD said that the rules will be voted on by the state’s DNR board next month.