Of Georgia’s roughly 525 hazardous waste sites, nearly 200 have languished on the cleanup list since 1994, while the state legislature approves spending hazardous waste fees and fines elsewhere.
In FY2011, the state collected some $13.5 million in fines for violations and fees for legal disposal of hazardous and regular garbage. In the same year, the budget for administration, education, enforcement, helping local governments repair leaking landfills and financing actual cleanups was set at $3.1* million.
Georgia Code O.C.G.A. § 12-8-95 suggests that those fines and fees “shall not lapse to the general fund.” But then, the code refers back to O.C.G.A. § 12-8-91, which says the legislative “intent” is spending the money on cleanups.
So legally, I’m not sure how the move is done, how it is that the garbage fines and fees are not spent on cleanups.** I don’t know if the millions just move to the general fund or stay within the Georgia Environmental Protection Division or what.
In the early 90s, spending on the sites closely tracked collections. But after 2002, the numbers started diverging.
A site gets on the list when there’s a confirmed or suspected release of a regulated substance into soil or groundwater. It’s usually chemicals or metals.
So-called class I sites are the most critical — they’re where there’s known human exposure to a dangerous chemical in a toxic quantity. The state can use the hazardous waste fund to clean those sites quickly, and use administrative order to recover the money from the property owner later.
That is, if the property owner can be found and has money (like, if it’s not a bankrupt person or company.)
Classes II through V are in various stages of testing and cleanup by the property owner, enforced by the EPD.
Read the EPD’s explainer on the Hazardous Site Inventory.
Georgia’s tire fund — all those $1 fees it takes to dispose of a tire — is spent the same way, ie, chiefly _not_ on tire recycling/cleanup.
Annual total, total, total state spending, including matching federal funds sent from DC, has come to the $16-18 billion range lately.
This map comes from July 2011 data, the state’s last annual update.
Click on the points to find out more or download the raw Excel-format Georgia Hazardous Site Inventory.
*Simplified data is used for the text. But if you want to get into it, NB, HWTF “revenues” also include (small) interest and cost recovery. And “expenses” is all HWTF operations, including $transfers to local governments. Dig the data urself, source EPD: Georgia Hazardous Waste Trust Fund income, appropriations and expenses, FY 1993-2011.
**Though I am happy to find this out for you if you commission a story.