Georgia County Government - February 2008 - (Page 31)

Feature Solid Waste Management in Georgia: New Challenges Ahead The 1990 Georgia Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Act and the combined efforts of state agencies, local governments and others to implement its requirements largely solved Georgia’s “solid waste crisis” of the 1980s. Solid waste issues have resurfaced, however, owing to many factors. A historical review of the problem lends insights into how to best manage the state’s current solid waste challenges. By James E. Kundell, Ph.D. S olid waste, essentially, comprises society’s discards and includes waste generated from mining, agricultural and forestry, and industrial, com- ing, the prevalence of litter and illegal dumping, abandoned landfills, and the lack of appropriation of some of the fees collected for the Solid Waste Trust Fund, originally intended for solid waste purposes. The development of solid waste management policies and programs in the state sheds light on these issues and how they might be addressed. mercial and residential waste. In 1970, the definition included hazardous waste that, though still considered a solid waste component, is addressed under a separate 1979 state statute. Today, it is important to clarify what the term “solid waste” means. For our purposes, the focus is municipal solid waste (MSW), defined as household and commercial solid wastes, yard trimmings and construction and demolition (C&D) waste. For nearly two decades, MSW as a major public-policy issue has been limited statewide. The 1990 Georgia Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Act and the efforts of state agencies, local governments and others to implement its provisions largely solved Georgia’s “solid waste crisis” of the 1980s. Recently, however, MSW issues have resurfaced, mostly related to lack of progress in achieving per-capita disposal goals, planning requirements and landfill sit- Initial Solid Waste Management Efforts Historically, the approach in dealing with solid waste was to dump it in an out-of-the-way place. Problems with solid waste disposal were limited due to the dispersed population, the degradability of waste and a comparatively more limited waste volume. Rising populations and urbanization spurred significant challenges with solid waste. Open dumps emerged as sources of environmental and health problems. Water contamination and smoke from burning dumps added to the environmental concerns, and populations of potentially disease-carrying vermin thrived on discarded waste. A 1971 report identified open dumps as the second-worst environmental challenge Georgia faced. At the time, it was estimated that there were more than 400 open dumps and four solid waste incinerators in the state, all of which were causing environmental contamination. Georgia was not alone. Proper solid waste management was a national challenge. Congress’s 1965 Solid Waste Disposal Act encouraged the use of “sanitary landfills” rather than open dumps. The major difference was that sanitary landfills generally were located in dry areas, and the waste was compacted and covered with soil each day, helping control fires and disease vectors; but they didn’t hinder water contamination. As water passed through a landfill, it picked up any dissolvable material and carried it to ground or surface water sources. Favorable soil conditions often slowed the “leachate” but did not stop it completely. In 1970, Congress amended the solid waste law by passing the Resource Recovery Act amendments, promoting recycling. But since recycling was generally considered separate from solid waste management, the changes had limited impact. Responding to concerns identified in the 1970 report of environmental problems in Georgia and the solid waste efforts at the national level, in 1972 the Georgia General Assembly passed the Georgia Solid Waste Management Act. The law gave the newly created Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division (EPD) the authority to require permits for solid waste disposal facilities. So authorized, EPD was established siting, design, construction and operation requirements for sanitary landfills. Over the next 20 years, Georgia’s 400-plus open dumps were closed and replaced by about 195 sanitary landfills. The four solid waste WASTE MANAGEMENT continued on page 32 FEBRUARY 2008 31

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - February 2008

Georgia County Government - February 2008
President's Message
County Matters
Regional Focus on the Georgia Mountains: Rabun, Habersham and Stephens Counties
DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb
Solid Waste Management in Georgia: New Challenges Ahead
Essential Elements of Negotiating Professional Service Firm Contracts
The Walker County Courthouse at LaFayette
Extension News: Partnerships are Key to Conservation Education
Research Corner: Interns: An Asset to Every County
NACo News: Counties and Climate Change FAQs
Georgia Flag to Travel to All 159 Georgia Counties
State Announces Regional Recycling Hub Grant Awards
Abraham Joins ACCG Support Staff
County Parade
ACCG Launches e-Magazine
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - February 2008