Explosion Rocks Columbus Recycling Plant Amid City Waste Management Debates
An explosion felt throughout the Chattahoochee Valley shot a bright orange fireball and mushroom-shaped cloud thousands of feet into the air Sunday night over the privately-owned Radius Recycling Plant on 10th Avenue in Columbus, Georgia. However, the explosion happened amid a month-long debate by city officials over the need for city-owned recycling centers and other waste management issues. Explore the full story for the questionable details.
An artistic expression of Columbus, Georgia City Manager Isaiah Hugley, superimposed on an image of the massive explosion that took place at the privately-owned Radius Recycling Plant, September 17, 2023. The explosion occurred amid a month-long debate between city officials over the city’s cost-deficient recycling centers and waste management department.
Image Credit:
Muscogee Muckraker

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COLUMBUS, Ga. — A massive explosion felt and seen throughout the greater Chattahoochee Valley region shook south Columbus last night, shooting a bright-orange fireball and mushroom-shaped cloud thousands of feet into the air.

The explosion, as confirmed by Columbus Fire & EMS Chief Sal Scarpa, was sourced to have originated at the Radius Recycling Plant at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 17, 2023.

The privately-owned scrap metal collection & recycling facility is located at 420 10th Avenue in the city’s Seventh Council District.

The timing of the explosion coincides with a month-long debate between city officials surrounding the city’s waste management system and recycling centers, which began during the August 8 city council meeting.

The combustion explosion, characterized by its large bright-orange fireball rolling upwards away from the blast into a mushroom-shaped cloud, occurs when a hydrocarbon fuel is combined with an oxidizing agent like air and ignited while under pressure.

Though still unconfirmed by CFEMS, the explosion likely resulted from the ignition of a large propane tank or other hydrocarbon fuel source on-site of the recycling plant.

The explosion led to a massive fire that caused CFEMS to request for a foam truck to be called in from the Columbus Airport, along with other additional support from Fort Moore (Benning).

Firefighters had the blaze contained within an hour and a half, stating there was no longer any threat to the immediate area by 10:00 p.m.


The timing of the explosion, while speculative, does factually coincide with a month-long series of debates amid city officials surrounding the city’s waste management and recycling centers.

We at the Muckraker intend to be  clear in our communication that we have no evidence in our possession of a connection between these timely events. However, we do strongly feel that it is our duty to point out the obvious connections in both time and subject matter.

Just over a month ago during the August 8 city council meeting, City Manager Isaiah Hugley hosted an update and presentation on a formal study of the city’s Integrated Waste department. 

That update, as delivered by Director of Public Works Drale Short,  focused heavily on the city’s recycling plants.

According to the presentation, the city-owned recycling centers purposefully operate a net-loss; they cost far more to operate than they produce in revenue. The city manager’s office claimed that the centers are necessary as they extend the lifespan of the city’s limited landfills.

Hugley offered thinly-veiled and illogical arguments to support his claims in defense of keeping the city’s recycling centers open and fully-funded.

Those weak arguments were very quickly pointed out by several city councilors, including a lengthy and well-articulated statement made by Councilor Glenn Davis (District 2).

Hugley, however, pushed back against city councilors, stating that the city’s revenue-losing recycling centers must remain operational — if not expanded even further — to help offset use of the city’s landfills.

If — and this is a big if, which we happily declare — if Sunday night’s explosion at the privately-owned Radius Recycling Plant were to cause significant impact on its operations, would that not also place a greater burden on the city’s landfills and waste management system?

If such a strain were to be placed on the city’s landfills, would that not just-so-happen to provide the perfect political opportunity for Hugley to seek further expansion of city-owned recycling plants, just as he so-readily defended and advocated for just a few short weeks ago on August 8?

Perhaps that is something worth asking questions about. Perhaps it is benign — but anomalies which combine means, motive, and opportunity are generally worth asking questions about.

Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.


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