Fairburn Planning Comm. denies biomedical waste treatment plant

Thu, 08/06/2009 - 4:03pm
By: Ben Nelms

Fairburn Planning Commission voted Tuesday to deny the conceptual site plan from TreatMed, Inc. that would establish a biomedical waste treatment plant on 4.22 acres along Creekwood Road. The issue will go before the City Council at its Aug. 10 meeting.

The proposal by Seattle-based TreatMed was listed by Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) as a Development of Regional Impact (DRI). Approved by ARC earlier this week and if approved by the Fairburn City Council, the facility would be built on a 4.22-acre tract on Creekwood Road on Fairburn’s southwest side. Creekwood intersects with Bohannon Road approximately a mile north of I-85 and Oakley Industrial Boulevard, a short distance from the Ga. Highway 74/I-85 interchange.

According to both Fairburn planning staff and TreatMed President David Squalli, the Creekwood Road property is zoned M-1 and the proposed biomedical waste treatment plant is a permitted use for that zoning district.

The Planning Commission voted 3-1 to deny the conceptual site plan for the proposed development. The motion by Commissioner Carolyn Bradley read, “I move that we recommend denial of the Biomedical Treatment Facility Site Plan because the proposed use and the proposed location could cause injuries or obnoxious conditions resulting from transportation of contaminated, infectious medical waste to this facility and the possible release of unknown hazardous waste water into the system of the City of Fairburn. The operation of this facility can cause a nuisance which would be a detriment to the public health, safety and welfare to the citizens of the City of Fairburn.”

Concerning the motion to deny and the language contained in the motion, TreatMed attorney Doug Dillard said the motion had no basis in law or fact. He also referenced the DRI approval by both ARC and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA). If the arbitrary and capricious denial is followed by a similar denial by the City Council next week, that denial will be unconstitutional, Dillard said.

Dillard noted that neither ARC nor GRTA imposed any conditions on the proposal and said that TreatMed had agreed to the 15 or 16 conditions required by the City of Fairburn.

Commenting on the waster treatment facility and its method of operation, Squalli said the facility will be set to process “red bag” waste from facilities such as physicians offices, dentist offices and hospitals. Using Ecodas biomedical waste treatment equipment, the material is shredded, pressurized and heated with steam to sterilize everything, he said. Unlike other biomedical waste that is not sterilized, Squalli said the end product is appropriate for shipment to Municipal Solid Waste landfills.

“This is a fully automated process. Employees will never come in contact with the material. And the effluent water will be filtered and sterilized before being discharged into the sewer,” Squalli said. “Steam works better than the usual chemical treatment for processing and it works better than incineration which pollutes the air. And with a chemical treatment, it still produces a waste that is not sterile. Ours is an alternative type of treatment aimed at negating the problems with chemical treatment and incineration.”

As presented, the project is proposed in two phases. The first phase would construct a 14,200 square-foot TreatMed biomedical waste treatment facility that would begin construction in November and be completed in the third quarter of 2010. The second phase slated for 2016 would see the construction of a 16,000 square-foot biomedical waste treatment equipment manufacturing and office building operated by the French-owned Ecodas. Ecodas operates in numerous countries on several continents.

Squalli also commented on the choice of metro Atlanta and Fairburn for the location of the proposed facility. Aside from knowing the Atlanta area from having attended school here, Squalli said the customer base in metro Atlanta is huge, and the airport means the Ecodas headquarters near Paris is one direct flight away. Another factor, Squalli said, is that unlike many metro areas across the country, real estate prices in past years have been less volatile and more affordable in metro Atlanta.

Specific to Fairburn, Squalli said he initially looked in Canton and at the Fulton Industrial area, but came across a suitable piece of property on U.S. Highway 29 and Bishop Road. It during that time that he initiated contact with the city, as is customary with commercial and industrial projects. The Creekwood Road property was purchased after the Bishop Road deal fell through, Squalli said.

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