Recycling Plant Exploded Days After Separate Fire At Waste Management Building
On September 17, after a month of debate by officials over the city’s waste management programs, a massive explosion at the Radius Recycling Plant in Columbus, Georgia shot a fireball and mushroom cloud thousands of feet into the air. However, closer inspection reveals that a separate fire also happened at the Waste Management building on Veterans Pkwy just days prior on September 7. Explore the full story to see the questionable details as local media outlets and city officials continue to remain silent on the suspicious issue.
An artistic expression of Columbus, Georgia City Manager Isaiah Hugley, superimposed on a colorized image of a fire at the Waste Management building on Veterans Parkway on September 7, 2023. The fire happened ten days before a separate explosion at the Radius Recycling plant on 10th Avenue; all occurred amid a month of city debates surrounding its waste management programs.
Image Credit:
Muscogee Muckraker

Are we on the right path as a city? What are your thoughts as the reader? Be sure to follow Muscogee Muckraker on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to see our upcoming stories as they break throughout the coming week.

COLUMBUS, Ga. — The massive explosion at the Radius Recycling plant that rocked the Fountain city on September 17 occurred just ten days after a separate fire at the Waste Management building on Veterans Parkway.

The building at 2015 Veterans Parkway is owned and operated by Waste Management Solutions, headquartered in Houston, Texas. 

The earlier fire at the WM transfer station occurred shortly before 1:00 p.m. on September 7, according to Fire Marshal and Division Chief John Shull.

Much like the explosion that happened ten days later at Radius Recycling on September 17, no cause has been determined nor released to the public.

The privately-owned WM facility serves as a transfer station, which is a temporary holding facility where waste goes to be sorted and then sent to a landfill or recycling facility. 

No local media outlets have provided the public with any update, investigative reporting, nor any follow-up whatsoever on either event, despite them being fairly-obviously linked in both time and subject matter.


Both the fire at the WM transfer station and the explosion at Radius Recycling occurred during a month-long debate by city officials regarding the city’s waste management programs. 

During that lengthy debate, City Manager Isaiah Hugley has continued to combat city councilors by providing illogical reasons to expand the city’s recycling programs, which operate at a net-loss; the recycling centers cost taxpayers $1.2 million per year to operate, yet only net the city about $428k worth of finished recyclable product in return for a net loss of $772,000 each year.

According to city councilors, that revenue was much lower than what was anticipated given the tonnage of recyclable material that flows through the city’s system. This raises obvious questions of where the remainder of the anticipated revenue may have ultimately wound up.

A slide presented to city council by Director of Public Works Drale Short showing the city’s recycling center tonnage figures for fiscal year 2023. Image source: Muscogee Muckraker via CCG TV.

Despite the obvious monetary loss, Hugley has continued to illogically defend keeping the city-owned recycling centers fully-funded, with his rationale being that it “extends the life of city-owned landfills” from 22 years to roughly 30 years. 

Conveniently, that requires pumping $1.2 million of taxpayer’s money into the city’s waste management program every year under Hugley’s direct control.

You read that correctly: the city manager stated in several recent city council meetings that he has a political motive to “extend the lifespan of city landfills” by eight years through a mechanism he admits will lose the city about $772,000 each year, forever.

Any reasonable person would see the opportunity for embezzlement given the process of how recyclable materials are accepted or rejected post-recycling based on their condition; if the material tonnage simply didn’t match, or if some excess material just-so-happened to not be counted, hundreds of thousands of dollars could potentially be moved off-the-record to anywhere or anyone.

Given Hugley’s ironically-stated intention of “saving the landfills,” he of course has motive to intentionally place as much stress as possible on the city’s current waste management system. With an over-stressed system, Hugley would then be in the perfect political position to accomplish his stated goal of expanding it out of “necessity” so that he can “save the landfills” — and we’d be willing to bet that such an endeavor would require a bigger budget for the city’s recycling programs, despite them already operating at a hugely-unexpected net loss.

Conveniently enough, the explosion at the Radius Recycling plant and the fire at WM just ten days prior both serve to achieve Hugley’s self-admitted ends. By damaging those plants, more waste could be diverted to city-owned landfills and would thus place undue stress on the system; it’s essentially the white-collar theft of trash from private entities so that it can flow through the suspiciously underperforming city recycling center instead.

That stress would then give Hugley exactly what he already said he wanted: an excuse to keep city recycling plants “funded” and to further expand the city’s waste management program in excess of its current $1.2 million recycling budget.

We wonder where some of that money is ending up.

Additionally, Hugley also recently sought to end the “contract” the city has with AmWaste to remove seasonal yard debris, which the city manager “contracted” to the private company during the pandemic. The company was hired to the tune of roughly $400,000 per month, allegedly due to a lack of city waste management employees. 

We’ve placed the word “contracted” above in quotation marks because there is not nor ever was an actual written contract between CCG and AmWaste whatsoever, according to Finance Director Angelica Alexander during the September 12 city council meeting.

AmWaste removed yard debris like leaves and grass clippings from residents across the city and took the waste to its own privately-operated landfills. Hugley’s attempt to hastily cancel Amwaste’s employment yet serves as another very timely example of Hugley deliberately seeking to divert waste back into city-owned landfills, placing even more stress on the suspiciously underperforming city-owned systems.


The city’s recycling program has largely underperformed in revenue generation — so much so that the amount of net loss raises serious suspicions over where hundreds of thousands of dollars may have ultimately wound up.

There are three examples — all within the past few weeks — of events that all just-so-happen to divert waste back into city landfills. That increase of waste would increase stress on the city’s systems, which would in turn give Hugley leverage to seek more funding for the city’s recycling centers so he can “save the landfills” — all while suspicions arose over the recycling program’s underperforming revenue.

Two of those timely examples involved fire and explosions at waste management facilities within ten days of each other on September 7 and 17 respectively.

The third example involved a hasty request to suddenly cancel Amwaste’s $400k/month “contract” on September 12, right smack in the middle of the fire and explosion. To top that off, it turns out that the city manager’s office never even established a legitimate contract with Amwaste in the first place.

All of these events magically happened to occur in a very short timeline while City Manager Isaiah Hugley openly stated his desire to increase funding for the city’s recycling plants to “save city landfills.” All of these events place stress on the system in a way that would provide Hugley with political currency to accomplish that.

All the while, the city’s media outlets have remained deadly silent on the issue without even providing any sort of basic follow-up, let alone an investigative report that calls out these obvious anomalies linked in time, space, subject, and jointly-achievable ends.

We wonder why.

Ask yourself: Cui Bono? Who benefits?

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


© 2023 Muscogee Muckraker. All rights reserved.

Be sure to follow Muscogee Muckraker on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to see all the muck that’s fit to print as it breaks throughout the coming week.

There has never been a better time to be a Columbus Police Officer! The Columbus Police Department is a state and nationally accredited law enforcement agency dedicated to protecting and serving the citizens of Columbus, Georgia. Become part of a highly trained law enforcement team focused on building and maintaining strong community partnerships that improve the safety and quality of life for every citizen. Join today and protect the promise of a better tomorrow.

Got A Story?
We want to help you expose it.
Become a Muckraker Supporter
You can help us expose corruption.
Become a supporter today.
Get On The List
Not ready to subscribe?
We understand.

Join our mailing list and get
FREE limited access to our top headlines anyway.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
By submitting, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.