South Atlanta can breathe easier -- for now 

First, the good news: The residents of south DeKalb County only have to put up with Live Oak landfill's stench one more year. A tribunal of administrative law judges has ordered that no more dump trucks shall pass through the gates of Live Oak after Dec. 1, 2004.

Residents of South River Gardens and members of the South DeKalb Community Association complained for almost a decade about foul smells that drove them indoors for weeks at a time. Last spring, the state Environmental Protection Division inspected Live Oak landfill. Inspectors found several air and solid waste management violations. Last summer, EPD ordered that Live Oak shut down, and that the company that owns Live Oak, Waste Management, pay more than $1 million in fines.

Waste Management appealed the order. But on Dec. 8, the tribunal fined Waste Management $214,000, and sided with EPD and a coalition of neighborhoods represented by the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest.

"It is a great victory, and we are so proud," says Brenda Jackson, secretary of the South DeKalb Neighborhood Coalition.

Waste Management spokeswoman Erica Cook says the company has not yet decided if it will appeal.

Now for the bad news. Most of the 4,500 tons of trash dumped a Live Oak on a typical day -- about 86 percent, according to Waste Management -- comes from the city. That means City Hall only has a year to come up with a new place to put Atlanta's trash.

More than likely, the next landfill will be farther away than Live Oak, and significantly more expensive.

"It's very unfortunate because the decision is really going to create a significant waste crisis for metro Atlanta and more rate increases for citizens," Waste Management's Cook says.

As if sewers weren't enough, solid waste has suddenly become another major issue that Mayor Shirley Franklin will have to deal with. Franklin wasn't able to comment on the judge's decision before Creative Loafing went to press because she was only hours away from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deadline regarding the city's sewer problem.

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