Judge Finds Wilbros in Contempt

February 26, 2014

A judge finds Wilbros in contempt after a two-day hearing in Stephens County Superior Court.

On Tuesday, Judge Robert Adamson found Wilbros and the other defendants in a civil suit filed by Stephens County and other plaintiffs in contempt of the various Georgia Environmental Protection Division orders and by extension the judge’s court order of December 10, 2012, Plaintiff’s Attorney Don Stack said.

As a result, Judge Adamson issued a purge order that says the Wilbros facility in Stephens County is in contempt until such time as they can demonstrate they are not in contempt and is requiring the immediate cessation of activities that will create malodors at a distance of more than 1000 feet, Stack said.

According to Stack, the judge will establish a compliance mechanism to ensure his order is followed and that the odors stop.

That compliance mechanism will be set up within the next 15 days, said Stack.

“We are obvious really pleased with the results,” said Stack.  “I think he (Judge Adamson) recognizes the EPD, like the community, has run out of patience.”

Testimony and arguments concluded late Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday’s testimony included Wilbros’ owner Joe Wilbanks, who took the stand for more than three hours Tuesday.

In his testimony, Wilbanks contested the allegations made by StephensCounty and the other plaintiffs that he has not followed the EPD and court orders.

Wilbanks said he has provided all information requested by court-appointed and University of Georgia composting expert Dr. K.C. Das regarding Wilbros’ composting operation and argued that the Georgia Environmental Protection is wrong in its assertions of numerous permit violations listed in an October 2013 notice of violations.

He also said that Wilbros emitted malodors on only two occasions, both in 2012.

When asked if the EPD and citizens were wrong when making complaints about the odors from his Rose Lane facility, Wilbanks said he believed they were wrong.

The hearing started Monday.

During testimony on Monday, Dr. Das testified that based on his concerns regarding Wilbros’ composting operation, the potential for producing odor was “pretty significant.”

Also, numerous Georgia EPD officials testified about Wilbros’ alleged violations of their EPD permits for both wastewater treatment and solid waste handling.

In opening statements Monday, Stack said Wilbros had violated previous court and Environmental Protection Division orders by not increasing its carbon to nitrogen ratio, sending raw waste materials directly to the wastewater treatment pond without processing, having non-functioning equipment in some cases, having too much moisture in the compost piles, and continuing a repeated pattern of misinformation and inconsistent information.

However, Wilbros’ attorney Steven Gilliam disputed Stack’s allegations and said Wilbros had done what it has been ordered to do and met all necessary requirements.

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