DeKalb County to close one section of its landfill, but nearby residents still have complaints

Seen from about a mile away, the Seminole Landfill mounts over the tree line into the Rock Mill neighborhood. (Courtesy of Joies Cox)

DeKalb County is closing part of its municipal landfill. County officials say it’s because it’s reaching capacity.

Residents living about a mile away in the Rock Mill neighborhood have complained for years about the size of the landfill and its unbearable fumes. 

Entering the neighborhood, the Seminole landfill looks like a mountain as it towers over the tree line. Resident Joies Cox describes it as “a monster” that’s “covering half the sky.”

Courtesy of Joies Cox

Growing up in Rock Mill, Cox watched the landfill grow in size over the years. Cox also says the scent can be unbearable. 

“[It] smells like gases, like, terrible, like you can smell like methane … I don’t know, it just stank,” Cox said. “It really smells like a lot of garbage. It puts like a funny feeling in the worst way in your stomach.”

At least six other landfills have closed in south DeKalb over the last forty years, including the over 200-acre Live Oak landfill in 2004. 

Jacqueline Echols is a part of the South River Watershed Alliance. She says the area is predominantly home to Black people.

“It all goes to who is least likely to fend off the siting of a landfill and who has the political clout and the money to fight the siting of a landfill. I mean, that’s just the reality,” Echols said. 

In 2005, the county stopped any new landfills from being opened and operated with its solid waste management plan, making Seminole the only place for trash to go. 

Now, DeKalb plans to close the part of the landfill closest to the Rock Mill neighborhood. But it’s building a new disposal area, or cell, within the landfill’s footprint.

DeKalb communications manager Andrew Cauthen says the new cell should relieve residents from the strong smells.

“No additional waste, solid waste, will be placed near this community,” Cauthen said. “The cell will be covered with dirt, and grass will be planted on top of it.”

Some residents like Cox say they’d like to see the landfill moved or even shut down, but it’s very unlikely because the county’s trash has to go somewhere. 

DeKalb officials say construction for the new cell will be completed by June 1. The site still has to be approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division before it’s open for operation.