Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

January 30, 2013

County trash ordinance goes into effect Friday

VDT has Q&A with county leadership about new law, burning

VALDOSTA — When the Lowndes County waste collection and disposal ordinance goes into effect Feb. 1, residents in unincorporated areas of the county will have to pay $12.80 per month, billed quarterly, to Advanced Disposal, the only waste collection franchise contracted under the ordinance.

In response to continued questions about the new ordinance (which also governs the burning of yard waste), The Valdosta Daily Times spoke with representatives from Lowndes County for a Q&A session on waste burning and disposal.

VDT: Lowndes County has said residents aren’t required to sign a service contract with Advanced Disposal. What other services are there in the area, and do they include Deep South Sanitation in Valdosta?

LC: “According to the solid waste ordinance, Advanced Disposal will be the only residential hauler licensed to serve unincorporated Lowndes County. There’s been some confusion about trash collection service in the city. This ordinance is just for unincorporated Lowndes County, not for any of the cities.”

VDT: Is it illegal to burn logs in a closed container, such as in outdoor fireplaces, fire pits or chimeneas?

LC: “The burn ordinance doesn’t address those. Those are OK, as long as they’re for residential, recreational purposes. The law does define a bonfire, or something larger than a bon fire, and that’s determined by the fire marshal.

“If you are burning yard debris for the purpose of disposing of yard debris, you have to have a permit. If you want to have a small fire for

outdoor recreation, you don’t have to have a burn permit for that.

“If anyone has any questions about the type of the fire and whether they need a permit, go to the Georgia Forestry Commission website at www.GFC.state.ga.us.

VDT: What specifically can people burn?

LC: “They can only burn yard waste — limbs, leaves, grass clippings, logs, etc.”

VDT: On what days is burning regularly allowed? It used to be the first and the third Saturday, and no permit was needed. Is that still the case?

LC: “You always need a permit. The county allows for residential burning the first and third Saturday in accordance with the burn ordinance, but you always have to have a burn permit, regardless. The burn permit, you get from Forestry.

“If you are in unincorporated Lowndes County and you are in an agricultural area, with a burn permit, you can burn when you need to. Residents in these areas follow different rules. If you are in a zoning district that indicates residential, you can burn with a permit the first and third Saturday. The number for that is 1-877-OK2-BURN.”

VDT: Are residents allowed to drop off their own trash at the landfill?

LC: “No. They can make arrangements for that by contacting Advanced Disposal at (229) 244-2466.”

VDT: Do residents in unincorporated areas have any option for trash disposal other than paying the $12.80 monthly fee for waste disposal services?

LC: “It’s illegal to burn household trash. It’s only legal to burn yard waste, and only with a permit. It is a violation of local ordinance, state, and federal law to burn household garbage.”

VDT: What about dumping trash by the side of the road?

LC: “Lowndes County Code Enforcement successfully prosecutes cases on a monthly basis in the Magistrate Court for illegal roadside dumping. In addition, there are many proactive citizens that will call in with tag numbers when they see other citizens throw trash from their vehicles.

“While this may seem like an option people can get away with, more times than not, these cases are prosecuted successfully. Violators are fined. The amount of the fine is determined case by case by the magistrate. In some cases, where dumping can be so significant that the case is handled by state court, those fines can be thousands of dollars.”

VDT: County Manager Joe Pritchard said the ordinance operates under a state statute that “empowers commissioners to adopt ordinances governing the unincorporated area for the purpose of protecting the public health, safety and welfare.” What is that specific statute?

LC: “It’s in the solid waste ordinance linked on the county’s website, Article 1, Section 1.2.

Below are the sections of the Georgia Constitution that were listed in the ordinance. Article IX, Section 2, Paragraph III of the constitution states, “any county, municipality, or any combination thereof may exercise the ... power to provide ... garbage and solid waste collection and disposal.”

According to Article II of the new ordinance:

• in Section 1.6, it is “unlawful to place or mix yard trimmings with residential solid waste within unincorporated Lowndes County.” Residents may not throw away their yard trimmings with their household garbage; it is illegal under the ordinance.

• in Section 1.6(c), yard trimmings “shall be disposed of in the following manners: sorted and stockpiled; chipped; composted; used as mulch; by otherwise beneficially reusing or recycling it to the maximum extent feasible; or at certain types of landfills that are permitted to accept yard trimmings.”

• in Section 1.7, “No person shall dispose of any solid waste within the unincorporated areas of the county other than through contract with a third party authorized by law to collect and dispose of the solid waste.”

It is illegal for unincorporated residents to bring their trash to the landfill themselves or to contract with a non-approved provider.

• in Section 2.2, “No person shall engage in the business, enterprise or commercial activity of providing all or any part of residential solid waste collection services within the unincorporated areas of the County except pursuant to a residential solid waste franchise issued under Section 2.3.”

Any other business that offers an alternative to the exclusive franchise Advanced Disposal is in direct violation of County law.

• in Section 2.3, “the county may issue either an exclusive franchise to a single person … for the conduct … of residential solid waste collection services in the unincorporated areas of the County.” According to the ordinance set by the County, the County is allowed by law to issue an exclusive franchise agreement to a single waste collection company.

Cary Scarborough, owner of Deep South Sanitation, was issued a business permit for his waste collection services Oct. 18, 2011 for unincorporated residents. He said he expects to be in violation of the ordinance after Feb. 1, but he believes residents should have a choice, and will operate until told not to.

His service offers curbside pickup in unincorporated Lowndes for $52.50 per quarter.

“I have not been told by the County that what I’m doing is illegal,” Scarborough said. “But I realize they’ve drawn up an ordinance, and they’re probably going to say that it’s illegal. If they come after me, I guess they have to come after me.”

Scarborough believes that if the citizens aren’t required to contract with Advanced Disposal, they are then allowed to choose.

“If the citizens can choose, why can’t they choose me?” he said.

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