HALL COUNTY, Ga. - The owner of a smelly local landfill that violated local zoning rules calls the controversy a misunderstanding.
In an exclusive interview with Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant, Ken Cronan said he was sorry neighbors had to deal with the horrible smell coming from the landfill, but it had nothing to do with the zoning rules county leaders said the landfill broke.
Cronan’s apology comes two days after Hall County leaders found the Gainesville Waste and Recycling landfill off Athens Highway violated zoning rules by accepting tons of food waste.
"I don't feel like there's any blame on anyone here,” Cronan said. “I have to say it may be a misunderstanding of some point."
In June, Cronan got state permits to accept and compost food waste at the site. Those permits required the landfill be in line with local zoning. In a November 2011 letter to state environmental officials, Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver claimed the site, "complies with local zoning."
"I feel like I followed all the guidelines that were put before me,” Cronan said.
However, county documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News show when commissioners last rezoned the site in 2007, they limited intake to construction and demolition debris plus yard waste -- no food waste allowed. It's why Commissioner Ashley Bell wants to get to the bottom of Oliver's letter.
"We have to rescind this letter,” Bell said. “We don't know where it came from. We know it was penned by my chairman, but there was no authorization of this commission to do that.”
County leaders launched an investigation after neighbors complained about the smell coming from the landfill, which Cronan blamed on an overwhelmed retention pond rather than the food waste.
"We have aggressively attacked it, fixed it, and are continuing to make advanced changes to it so it won't happen in the future,” Cronan said.
On Monday, Cronan worked out a deal with the county not to accept any more food waste at the site. The agreement also included surprise inspections.
Diamant has tried for days to get in touch with Chairman Tom Oliver about the letter he wrote, but he has not returned multiple calls or emails seeking an explanation.