It’s fun at the football games to watch the pretty majorettes twirl their batons, dancing to the music, whirling and smiling as they toss the batons skyward.

For added thrill, majorettes often douse their batons with lighter fluid and set them aflame. As the twirling fire spins dangerously close around their neck and bodies, the audience is mesmerized. The added danger rivets our gaze. Though we know the girls are probably safe, our fear is still there. We don’t breathe easy till the fires are out.

It’s a silly analogy, perhaps, but the megacorporation Republic Services, operators of the Broadhurst Landfill just outside of nearby Screven, wants area residents to stand by and watch as they put down the batons they twirl every day and, instead, pick up fiery, blazing sticks and start tossing them around. That’s the difference between trucking in tons of household garbage and bringing in train loads of potentially hazardous coal ash.

Yes, Republic appears to be safely handling disposal of last week’s leftover pizza and junior’s stinky disposable diapers. It’s a chore few of us want, but someone’s gotta do it. Our disposable society, continually creating more and more throwaway containers and the natural process of life, require us to have places like the Broadhurst landfill. Our ‘stuff’ has to go somewhere. For us, and hundreds of thousands of other people, Broadhurst is the place. We understand that.

A Republic spokesman reminded me last week, as we toured the landfill, the company’s record is sound, for the most part. You get out of your car at their office, only about a quarter-mile from the mountain of garbage they’ve taken in, and you sniff the air: nothing. You listen, and, in between, delivery trucks, you hear: nothing. Their landfill has operated for years, largely unnoticed, as they’ve disposed of millions of leftover meals, empty packages and other household garbage.

But that’s not coal ash, a dark, gritty waste that contains heavy metals and can lead to a number of significant health risks.

Republic already has a not-so-perfect  record of handling coal ash at Broadhurst, a much smaller quantity brought in from Florida several years ago. Cleanup of groundwater area surrounding that small site where some of the toxic poison escaped isn’t settled yet.

And that was nothing compared to the potential risk of handling train car loads of the dangerous waste.

Republic Services can hopefully continue their record of safely handling our garbage, burying our dinner scraps and our wive’s worn out shoe boxes. We don’t need them putting our clean air and our clean water at risk, however, by bringing in toxic coal ash to our neighborhood.

Playing with fire is no fun when we’re all the ones who might get burned.

Robert M. Williams, Jr. can be reached at