HB 226 Watched By Concerned Citizens Group

The Concerned Citizens of Toccoa-Stephens County are keeping an eye on a bill in the state Legislature that has attempted to change the definition of composting.

Members of the group traveled to Atlanta last week to testify in front of the Senate’s Natural Resources and Environment Committee about House Bill 226.

According to Concerned Citizens Vice Chair Michelle Grafton, the group became concerned after seeing the composting language inserted into this bill that dealt mainly with the storage and disposal of used tires.

“Out of the whole bill, it was talking about nothing but tires and then for some reason, in lines 16 through 20, they added composting,” said Grafton. “They basically defined what compost is.”

She said that is of concern because of the Wilbros odor situation.

“It basically said composting is (not) odor-free, not controlled and it does not have to be stable and that concerned us greatly,” said Grafton.

State Representative Randy Nix of LaGrange sponsored the bill.

In an e-mail, Nix said that the composting language was added at the request of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Nix went on to say that it was his understanding, based on testimony by the EPD to a House committee, that the language change and new definition would bring Georgia’s definition in line with the National Composting Council’s definition of compost and composting.

House Bill 226, with the proposed removal of those words regarding composting, passed the state House 139-33. Local State Representative Dan Gasaway did vote against the bill.

When the Senate committee took up the bill, Grafton spoke about the group’s concerns.

She said the Concerned Citizens wanted to make it clear that they did not want those words removed.

“We felt like if they took those words out, they could come back later and say compost is not odor-free, it says so in House Bill 226, lines 16 through 20, and that concerned us because compost should be odor-free and Wilbros has a composting facility in their backyard and it is not odor-free,” said Grafton.

In addition to the testimony in front of the Senate group, Brian Akin sent a letter to the sponsors of the bill, the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, and Governor Nathan Deal in which he said his fear is that removing those words from the definition of composting was an attempt by the EPD to get away from the odor issue altogether. In addition, Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin e-mailed the Senate committee, asking them not to accept the proposed new language.

Grafton said that the Senate committee was receptive to what the group said and has agreed to place the words “controlled, stable, and odor-free” back into the definition of composting.

House Bill 226 remains under consideration by the state Senate.