Almost 3 years ago Agri-Cycle moved onto its current property in Talmo...and ever since resident's say their town has smelled like rotting chicken.
The smell is only part of the problem for Talmo residents. They told News Channel 32 recently what worries them even more is the fact that some of the greasy waste from the plant has made its way into Allen Creek which flows through Jackson County.
This contamination is only one reason why the state Environmental Protection Division has finally, after three years of complaints from local residents, ordered the plant to close.
State EPD officials say in an administrative order that Agri-Cycle overloaded the spray fields it used in the last stage of waste processing and processed household waste without a permit.
It also says the plant caused at least two spills of greasy organic solids into Allen Creek.
The EPD order cites violations of the plant's wastewater treatment permit dating back to 2005.
Anyways, Charles Fletcher says he lives more than a mile away from this wastewater processing plant, but he says it still smells like he lives right next door to it. “It becomes so nauseous," he told News Channel 32, "at times you feel like you're going to vomit.”
Rodney Barrows says the smell and flies only get worse closer to the plant. He practically lives next door to the Agri-Cycle Plant and says he's constantly smothered by the smell.
“Now what we're dealing with is a grease smell; a used grease smell,” Rodney Barrows told NewsChannel 32.
Agri-Cycle owner Richard Harville says many of the accusations made in the EPD order are immaterial or untrue. Harville said he plans to appeal and continue operating the plant during the appeal process.
He said that claims being made against the company ``are untrue or don't have any bearing.''
So the poor residents of Talmo aren't done with this yet.
In fact, as Main Street News (Jackson County, Georgia) points out,
"The operation of the Agri-Cycle plant is an example of bad corporate citizenship. The firm simply doesn’t care about how it affects local citizens, the environment or the local watershed. It repeatedly violated EPD rules and mandates and misled the public about what it is really doing.
Firms like Agri-Cycle are why we have to have agencies such as the EPD. If all firms would do the right thing, there would be no need for such government oversight.
But as Agri-Cycle shows, some business owners simply don’t care. Some companies will flout the rules and even common sense.
But enforcement of the rules is mostly a toothless tiger. It may take months or years for the plant to be closed.
In the meantime, area residents should continue their fight against the odor coming from Agri-Cycle. Their protests won’t go unheard or unnoticed."
In case you were wondering, Talmo with a population of less then 500, is not a prosperous place. The per capita income for the town is $14,256. About 12.6% of families and 18.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.3% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over. Almost 44% of the town is Hispanic. Fifty one percent is white.
The number of those renting is above state average. The number of rooms per house is below state average. The number of college students is below state average.
The people of the town are workers. For males the most common jobs are in Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, laborers and material movers. For women they are Agricultural workers, and food processing workers.
In other words, these are hard working Americans, who like many hard working Americans, are getting screwed.
The following is from the Gainseville Times (Georgia).
Talmo plant facing closure: Neighbors still not satisfied
Last week, the state Environmental Protection Division ordered a Talmo wastewater treatment plant to stop taking waste, also giving Agri-Cycle 30 days to submit a closure plan. But a neighbor claims the plant still is in operation.
Located in northern Jackson County, the facility has been racking up violations and upsetting residents since it opened three years ago. Dominique Weatherell, who manages the EPD's industrial wastewater department, said the plant has had a number of noncompliance issues over the past two years.
"That in itself really has caused us to move with the administrative order," he said.
Effective immediately after the administrative order was issued on Aug. 21, the state mandated that Agri-Cycle cease to accept waste for any type of treatment. Some of the issues cited in the order include contaminating nearby Allen Creek with fecal matter and E.coli, building two ponds without state permission and accepting domestic waste for treatment, according to the EPD order.
"It's a frustration to the people who live downstream, and also to me, because I drink city water," said Clayton Dinn, who lives right across from the plant in Cedar Hollow subdivision.
Dinn claims the plant continues to operate despite the EPD order and that he has seen several trucks going in and out throughout the day.
In 2004, Thomaston-based Agri-Cycle came to Talmo when owner Richard Harville purchased the former Valley Fresh poultry processing plant just beyond the city limits.
The plant decomposes grease and poultry waste and then uses a land-application waste treatment system, or sprayfields, to dispose of the waste on company property.
Valley Fresh, which sold the site to Agri-Cycle, was issued a new wastewater-processing license in 2000. The license was transferred to Agri-Cycle in 2004, but expired in 2005. Agri-Cycle has been operating under a provisional license since the lapse, state officials have said.
EPD ordered Harville to implement a stream-monitoring program for the unpermitted discharge into Allen Creek within five days after the order was issued. That program is to include upstream and downstream sampling for dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform bacteria, pH and temperature.
Allen Creek runs into the Oconee River, which feeds into the Bear Creek Reservoir responsible for the water supply for Jackson, Barrow and Oconee counties.
Agri-Cycle also has 30 days from the day the order was issued to submit a closure plan to the EPD for the facility. The company can appeal but so far has not done so, Weatherell said.
Harville could not be reached for comment Thursday about the EPD order. But he has said before that his company is dedicated to improving the environment, air and water quality and working with people in a way that is beneficial to everyone.
"We're doing everything we can and we'll continue to do things that are proper to improve our process, to improve treatment and thereby improve the environment in every aspect," he previously told The Times. "That's our obligation under any circumstance."
Dinn said the monthlong time frame in which the plant can appeal is too lenient.
"They get a free pass for 30 days," he said. "Five days would have been sufficient time for them to appeal."
Though residents have been unhappy with the plant ever since it came to Talmo, Weatherell said the EPD started getting an increased number of complaints in the spring. Neighbors are most upset about the plant's odor, which they have compared to human waste and rotting carcasses.
In the past, Harville has attributed the odor and flies to the area itself, which is heavily agricultural. He has said there are many cows near residents' homes that could be contributing to the problem.
While Weatherell said the EPD doesn't specifically address odors in the administrative order, "We're addressing things that could be consequential."
A copy of the order, which was issued Aug. 21, states that the plant has not been operating in compliance since 2005.
Officials with the EPD inspected Agri-Cycle in November 2006 and found that the plant had constructed an anaerobic lagoon without state approval of design plans or specifications, which is required by law. A second wastewater lagoon, found during an inspection on Aug. 15, was constructed without EPD approval, the order stated.
During an inspection in May, the EPD found the following:
Domestic organics were discovered in the treatment system, indicating that the facility had accepted domestic waste.
The sprayfields were hydraulically overloaded.
Stormwater ponds contained process wastewater.
Ditches had been constructed around the sprayfields and contained process wastewater.
In addition to the violations noted by the EPD, Agri-Cycle and Jackson County have been in a legal dispute for the past two years.
In August 2005, the county issued a case-and-desist order for Agri-Cycle, claiming the company was operating a nonconforming use on the property based on the county's zoning regulations. Agri-Cycle appealed the order and was allowed to continue its operation. The case is on the docket to be heard in November, but it has been pushed back twice.
"It's an ongoing frustration," Dinn said. "I'm trying to figure out what it takes to close down an operation like this until the court cases are heard."
Originally scheduled to be heard in the spring, the case was moved to September. Now it will be at least November before it is heard in court.
Dinn said he understands the need to go through the judicial system and to give Agri-Cycle the chance to appeal.
Dinn said he would just like to see the matter resolved.
"I'm doing my very best to tolerate it and understand that there's a process we need to go through," he said. But, "there's got to be someone out there that says, 'enough's enough.'"
Weatherell said that while Agri-Cycle can no longer operate in its current location, the order doesn't say it can't begin doing business anywhere else in the state.
However, he said, if Agri-Cycle is looking to operate a wastewater treatment facility somewhere else, it would have to apply to the state and show how it would be in compliance with its laws.