Lithonia area residents wearing handwritten “NO” stickers packed DeKalb County’s Maloof Auditorium in Decatur recently to oppose a proposed woodchip burning facility.
“Hear us today,” Bishop Miles Fowler told the Board of Commissioners on May 24. “Hear what we are saying. We don’t want to breathe that air coming from that gasification plant.
“We have two landfills in our community,” said Fowler, who is the pastor of Big Miller Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia. “Our rivers are polluted. “To add to pollution that’s already in the air is a travesty to the south end of DeKalb County.”
Green Energy Partners is planning to construct a 10-megawatt facility outside the city limits of Lithonia. The site is beside a county transfer station for compost and mulch and across from Rogers Lake Landfill.
The $60 million plant will use a method called pyrolysis in which yard trimmings are placed in oxygen-free chambers. The chambers are then heated to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit with natural gas burners to produce syngas, which is turned into renewable natural gas (RNG).
The facility would be on a 21-acre site on Rogers Lake Road. The properties are zoned for heavy industrial businesses. According to a third-party assessment of the project, there are 11 wetland areas and eight hazardous waste sites within a one-mile radius of the site.
During construction the project would bring 500 temporary construction jobs and add $60 million to the county’s tax base. Nearly 100 permanent jobs will be created to run the facility.
“I understand the residents of Lithonia, but in this case they’re in error,” said Neville Anderson, chief executive officer of Green Energy Partners. “The factual report that they’re relying on is in error. It speaks to incineration, not pyrolysis and gasification.
“The word ‘gasification’ has gotten people up in arms because that word is misunderstood,” Anderson said. “The technology is not being understood.”
“The opposition’s arguments are based on emotions and not facts,” said Patrick Ejike, representing Green Energy. “They have not substantiated any of their views. The project is safe.
“This site is ideal for this project,” Ejike said. “If you look around the site, it has uses that are consistent” with the area.
The third-party assessment of the proposed project, conducted by State Rep. Karla Drenner, an environmental health and safety consultant, recommended that the Board of Commissioners approve the Green Energy Partners plant.
“No matter how small a risk of air quality is posed to a community, some people would oppose having such a facility in their community because they consider the risk unacceptable,” the assessment stated. “The perception of risk is a very personal matter, and a very complex one.”
Lithonia resident John Evans urged the board to reject Green Energy’s request for a special land use permit that would allow the project.
“There’s enough information and enough support in the community saying, “No, we do not want it,” Evans said.
Acting on the request of Commissioner Lee May, who lives near the proposed site, the board deferred voting on the project until its June 14 meeting.
“This is a very emotionally charged item,” May said. “I get the fact that there are major concerns about this facilitys impact on the health and environment of this community.
“This is one of those times where my particular thoughts and opinions …seem to go directly against the people,” May said.