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Metal dumped near Okefenokee raises environmental concerns

Waiting for fish to bite amid the Okefenokee Swamp's lilly pads and bald cypress trees near Fargo, Ga. (AP photo by Elliott Minor)
Waiting for fish to bite amid the Okefenokee Swamp's lilly pads and bald cypress trees near Fargo, Ga. (AP photo by Elliott Minor)

FOLKSTON, Ga. – Georgia environmental officials are investigating after elevated levels of a potentially hazardous metal were found in a landfill near the Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia.

Authorities say the metal -- vanadium -- was detected at a groundwater monitoring well at the Chesser Island Road Landfill in Charlton County.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the discovery has prompted another wave of concern in south Georgia over disposal and storage of coal ash, the toxic byproduct of burning coal for electricity.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division wrote in a letter earlier this year that levels of vanadium have been "generally increasing" since 2012 at the Waste Management Inc. dump.

Houston-based Waste Management, the nation's largest landfill operator, says vanadium, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants, is permitted by the state and poses no threat to the environment.