A Barnesville company’s plan to move its composting operation to DeKalb County is like déjà vu for a few hundred Lithonia residents who attended a community meeting on Feb. 9.
“This is a repeat,” said Viola Davis, with the Unhappy Taxpayer. “This was tried before, but we ended up shutting it down so it wouldn’t come. Stop bringing this type of development into our community.”
Residents are upset over a plan by Greenco Environmental to move is composting operation from Barnesville, to Lithonia. Last year, residents fought to keep a gasification plant out of their community.
On its website, Greenco claims to be the first commercial food waste composting operation to receive a permit and endorsement from the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of Georgia. The company collects food, yard and wood waste from food processing and landscape companies in the metro Atlanta area and hauls the raw materials to its 32-acre site in Barnesville.
“By combining large quantities of food waste, yard waste and wood waste, the company creates high quality organic compost with zero landfill contribution,” the website states. The wastes are combined, tilled and through a 90-day process the waste turns into organic compost, which is sold in bulk to farmers and manufacturers of bagged garden products. Tim Lesko, co-founder and president of Greenco Environmental, said his company plans to set up its operations 150-feet below ground level in an old rock quarry on Rock Mountain Road in unincorporated Lithonia.
Greenco collects food waste from schools, restaurants, hotels, manufacturers and grocery stores to “help them divert their food waste from the landfill to where it can be recycled because they have a desire to be more sustainable and more green,” Lesko said.
Last year, Greenco composted four million pounds of food waste from DeKalb County customers, Lesko said.
“That material would have gone into the DeKalb County landfill instead,” Lesko said.
Greenco is seeking to move from its Barnesville site, which has been open for nearly four years, where there have been complaints about the smell of the compost.
Lesko said the smell would not be a problem in Lithonia because the nearest homes are more than a mile from the quarry where Greenco would locate. The Barnesville site, which is still open, is located approximately 500 feet away from the closest house.
“Due to that close proximity, every now and then there were odor complaints,” Lesko said. “We felt the Lithonia site was much better suited.”
The longer distance to a residential area and the 150-foot depth into the quarry makes the Lithonia site “ideal,” Lesko said.
The company would hire five to seven truck drivers and two compost yard workers, Lesko said.
Lesko refuted claims by Lithonia residents that his operation is a landfill.
“We don’t bring trash in here,” Lesko said. “Everything that comes in, goes out.”
To set up shop in DeKalb County, Greenco must obtain a conditional use permit and a special land-use permit because the quarry is zoned for heavy industrial use with a condition that only mining could be done in the quarry.
The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to decide on the permits in March.
DeKalb Commissioner Lee May, whose district contains the proposed Greenco site, told the rally participants that he had received many e-mails from constituents about Greenco.
“By law this is their right to apply for this,” May said. “It’s also your right to make your voice heard.”
When asked by residents where he stood on the issue, May said he wanted to hear from residents.
“I came to see where you all were,” May said. “My position right now is to listen to you all first. I’m hearing real clearly where you all are.”
Madeline Powell-Avila of Stone Mountain said there is nothing Greenco representatives could say that would gain her support of their plans.
“I like the concept of Greenco, but not in my backyard,” Powell-Avila said.
“We’re just inundated with landfills,” Powell-Avila said. “It’s basically the same concept. It’s a little more than the backyard composting.”