ATLANTA - Our FOX 5 I-Team has found engineering reports that show potentially hazardous incinerator ash and a potentially toxic liquid known as leachate were found deep inside the landfill now known as Baby Gun club Landfill. All this was known 18 years ago by Atlanta public works employees, but nearby residents and environmentalists say they had no idea what was left in the area.
And, elected officials tell the I-Team they had never even heard of Baby Gun Club Landfill which is just 6 miles NW of city hall, bordering Proctor Creek and not far from the new Bellwood Quarry project. Two city councilmen have requested answers from the city. And nearby residents want answers as well.
Lucinda Augustine is an urban pioneer. She bought a boarded-up, six-bedroom house on Gun Club Road in NW Atlanta, and turned it into a home for her family of 5. She knew there was an officially closed landfill nearby. She had no idea there was another unmarked landfill even closer.
"To have something that could not only affect my children and the neighbors around me and the city knows about it... that is very disappointing to me," said Augustine.
A FOX 5 I-team investigation discovered the existence of Baby Gun Club Landfill buried deep in internal city memos, letters, engineering reports, and in two lawsuits that were quietly filed and then settled.
Eyewitnesses told us they saw the dumping, aerial photographs from the 60's and 70's showed the cleared off dump site, and internal records documented how - who knows what - was dumped on the land for years before strict environmental laws were in place.
"You don’t know what is there. That's the big concern to everybody," said former EPD compliance director Bert Langley.
Baby Gun Club sits just south of Gun Club landfill which operated for 20 years. The city officially closed, capped, and monitored Gun Club around 2000, but didn't close Baby Gun Club.
Georgia Environmental protection Division officials told us that's because it was so old, Baby Gun Club was not subject to modern closure requirements.
"I'm very fearful of what's buried there," said Augustine.
And that's the question. What was buried at Baby Gun club? And is it dangerous?
One hint comes from an Atlanta Journal Constitution article from 1968 which showed cars and other trash dumped right around Baby Gun Club. The article says the city burned the trash.
In 1994, the city hired an environmental engineering company called Roy F. Weston who bored holes into the ground all over Baby Gun Club. They dug 80 holes and found waste or trash in 48 of them. Including potentially toxic "incinerator ash". And ("MSW") municipal solid waste with a "strong waste odor" and more MSW with a potentially harmful liquid called leachate. Hole 78: "leachate coming out fast." Hole 61: "this area should be further investigated.”
When Jerry Brow recently found out Baby Gun Club waste was buried on his land, he wanted to know more. He found the Weston engineer who oversaw the testing and secretly recorded a conversation.
On the tape, Richard Woodham said he'd come up with the name Baby Gun Club. Jerry asked the engineer if the incinerator ash was dangerous?
Woodham: "Yeah. That's a concern. That's an actual concern. Yeah, because that ash is probably hazardous."
Reached by phone, Richard Woodham told us he can't talk about the work his company did because they were working for the city.
"There could indeed be a lot of things that are toxic dumped in this space," said Na'Taki Osborne Jelks
Environmental scholar and activist Dr. Na'Taki Osborne Jelks knows NW Atlanta well. The Spellman professor is on the Proctor Creek Stewardship Council. She was stunned to learn about Baby Gun Club - a landfill that borders Proctor Creek. We showed her the tests that showed, ash, waste, and leachate found 18 years ago.
"It would have made a lot of sense to close and cap this at the time gun club was closed," said Osborne Jelks
"The city needs to take ownership. You know that it’s there. Everyone knows that it is there. You need to get out there, clear all this mess that has been made so the community can feel safe," said Augustine.
The city of Atlanta would not talk with us. The Georgia EPD wrote us to make the following points:
- EPD has found no evidence of an environmental hazard at what is commonly referred to as the Baby Gun Club landfill. We would investigate complaints and work with the city of Atlanta to resolve any issues that may be discovered.
- The Baby Gun Club landfill pre-dates any Rules or Laws regarding solid waste disposal and therefore is not subject to modern closure requirements.
- The Gun Club Road landfill is a properly permitted and closed landfill. The closure adheres to a corrective action plan that includes a methane collection system, groundwater monitoring and erosion controls.