Cherokee County Marshal’s Office investigators are looking for a North Carolina truck driver they believe intentionally dumped liquid waste on Interstate 575 Monday morning.
Travelers heading south on I-575 near Lower Bethany Road late Monday morning found themselves being diverted onto alternate routes as officials worked to clean up what was initially described as a sewage spill on the road.
Witnesses told authorities they had seen someone dumping something at the site.
Capt. Jay Baker spokesman for the Cherokee Marshal’s Office said Wednesday afternoon that a warrant for unlawful dumping has been issued for 37-year-old Eddie Leon Alston of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“Monday morning at approximately 10:30 a.m., Cherokee 911 received a call about a motorist pumping an unknown substance onto the ground on I-575 underneath the Lower Bethany Road bridge,” Baker said “Members of the Cherokee Marshal’s Office, Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services and the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office arrived at the location moments later, but the suspect had left the area. Public safety officials did discover a liquid substance under the bridge that appeared to have just been dumped at the location.”
The Georgia Environmental Protection Agency was notified, and the Marshal’s Office began an investigation. It was determined that the liquid was some type of industrial waste, generically known as leachate.
During the investigation, the Marshal’s Office spoke with management at the nearby Pine Bluff landfill, who informed officials that an individual had arrived at the landfill Monday morning to pick up leachate from the facility, but his truck already had leachate in its tank, so he was turned away. That occurred shortly before the dumping on the interstate. The truck and driver matched the description of the individual who witnesses described dumping the substance on the interstate and was later identified as Alston. As of Wednesday afternoon, authorities did not know Alston’s whereabouts.
“We take this very seriously, as you can see with the warrant taken for this individual’s arrest,” Chief Marshal Ron Hunton said. “His illegal activity shut down the interstate for a considerable period of time costing the citizens immense delay, concern and taxpayers’ dollars with public safety agencies tied up dealing with this illegal and potentially dangerous act.”
According to Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services Public Information Officer Tim Cavender, the incident occurred at around 11 a.m. on the southbound lanes of the interstate near Lower Bethany Road. Both southbound lanes were closed while Cherokee County hazardous materials teams went to work, cleaning up the spill. Cavender said all southbound lanes of the interstate were reopened by approximately 12:15 p.m.