As a leader in the community, I am writing to express my concern that the County Commissioners are intending to file a protracted, expensive, and completely unnecessary lawsuit this week regarding the contract and operations of the Polk County Landfill.
This lawsuit is without merit, and will cost the taxpayers of Polk County a great deal of money that could possibly last for years, requiring the County to spend money with a large outside law firm that would likely be required due to the complexity of the issues. It is especially perplexing knowing the budget strains the County is currently experiencing; with many residents fearing local tax increases. In fact, we have met with the County and provided multiple proposals for addressing the concerns raised, and have laid out a plan and a timeline for meeting their expectations without need for a lawsuit.
First, please know that Waste Industries, through its affiliate ETC of Georgia, is very proud to operate and manage the landfill in our public-private contractual arrangement with the County. We strive and are committed to protect and preserve the environment surrounding the landfill and we take our corporate citizenship and commitment to the community seriously.
Founded in 1970, Waste Industries has worked hard to be one of the best waste and recycling companies in the country. Our company purchased ETC of Georgia in 2004 and assumed its contract with Polk County to operate the landfill. The County used to operate the landfill but turned operations over to ETC due to debt and burden to local taxpayers, while still maintaining ownership. As you are no doubt aware, landfill operations require significant ongoing capital investments as well as compliance with layers of complex regulations.
Although there have been local news reports to the contrary, the Polk County Landfill (also known as the Grady Road Landfill) is one of the best managed in the state. In fact, the landfill is frequently inspected by the Georgia EPD and has consistently received very high ratings for compliance with the rules and regulations for solid waste management. We are confident, and the inspections confirm that, our operations meet or exceed all State and Federal regulatory requirements and as well as our contractual obligations to the citizens of Polk County.
The landfill is permitted to accept Non-Hazardous Solid Waste. It does not accept any hazardous or medical waste. While the County owned landfill site down the road has experienced some problems in the past, there has been no contamination on or off site from the Grady Road Landfill. The site undergoes extensive on-site testing as required by permit and there is no evidence suggesting any problems. In an effort to minimize any litter issues, we have volunteered to pick up any trash 5 miles in either direction from Grady Road along Highway 278. We have also recently replaced our third party transportation company and have been closely monitoring to ensure that vehicles leaving the landfill are properly cleaned out and tarped.
In fact, there are many other measures above and beyond our contractual and permit obligations that we have discussed with the County Commission, such as odor misting systems, using an alternative form of cover that may be more effective in both covering exposed waste and managing odor, possible engineering changes, addition of staff members to address specific concerns, as well as other possibilities, none of which are contractually required and all of which would be at our cost. Further, we have been in the process of testing and rolling out some of these measures, and have provided a timeline to the County, but the County does not appear to want to give any of these options time to measure their effectiveness. Instead, the Commission seems more interested in making a splash by filing a lawsuit. Unfortunately, we believe this may hinder, rather than help, the implementation of measures intended to benefit the County and its citizens.
Not only is the landfill properly and effectively operated, the contract has benefitted the taxpayers of Polk County. Some of the details include:
• In total, host fees and other revenue streams generated by the landfill fund approximately 10 percent of the annual Polk County budget;
• The County receives a ‘host fee’ for any garbage, other than tonnage controlled by Polk County, which averages more than $1.5 million annually;
• Through the contract, the County limits its legal liability for the life of the site and beyond, as not only is ETC/Waste Industries responsible for operations, it is also responsible for closure and post-closure requirements, which extend for 30 years beyond closure of the landfill;
• The County enjoys a preferred disposal rate for its residents;
• The County does not have to pay for improvements, equipment, permitting, monitoring or operation of the landfill.
• The annual benefit and local economic impact of the landfill is almost $2.3 million.
Moreover, ETC/Waste Industries has invested more than $60 million in the landfill and employs 40 local people in two locations with total annual payroll of over $2.5M.
As a responsible corporate citizen, we spend close to $434,000 every year buying goods and services from neighboring businesses, while donating a total of more than $94,000 directly to Polk County charities since 2005.
We do understand the questions and concerns that some citizens have expressed in regard to living near a landfill. That is why we will continue to be transparent and available to listen and work with the County Commission and citizens to address any and all issues.
Every employee at Waste Industries will continue to work hard every day to provide a level of service that gives Polk County and its taxpayers the highest quality of waste management the industry has to offer, while ensuring that protection of our environment is always a priority.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Region Vice President, Waste Industries