Dear Editor: I heartily applaud the Wilkes County Board of Commissioners for updating the County zoning laws to address “Soil Amendments” and sludge dumping problems that have devilled Wilkes County for years.


“Soil Amendments” are commercial waste products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture (DOA) that are applied to land, usually in rural counties. Unfortunately, the DOA rarely enforces its own soil amendment rules, makes little information available about soil amendments, and does its best to stop counties from getting involved with soil amendments.  


Not surprisingly, some businesses and landowners have violated the Soil Amendment rules in Wilkes County. Even worse, others have been dumping sludge waste in Wilkes (and surrounding counties), sneaking it in because of lax enforcement and because you cannot distinguish between a truck carrying DOA “Soil Amendments” and another carrying untreated waste.


The Wilkes County Board of Commissioners has tried hard to get the Georgia legislature and DOA to better protect counties from soil amendment and sludge problems. But those efforts have not yet succeeded, and it is commendable that the County took matters into its own hands by changing the zoning law to establish setbacks, buffers and other rules for Soil Amendments. The new also requires landowners to get a Special Use Permit before putting DOA Soil Amendments on their land. Applicants will have to submit information about their plans, and the community can participate in that Permit process.


A side benefit of the new law is that it might become easier to spot and report illegal sludge dumping. Now if you see a sludge truck enter a property and the owner hasn’t obtained a Soil Amendment Special Use Permit, you should provide the information to the County for review. 


Hats off to Wilkes County for taking forward-thinking steps to conserve the county’s agricultural future and to protect residents, farmers and farmland.


Doug Abramson

Mrs. L. Willis sent this audio recording as a letter to the editor on March 10, 2024. 

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