Chapel Hill May End Partnership With Orange Co. Solid Waste After Landfill Closes

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45 Comments

Mark Marcoplos's picture

Potentially a good development

Adding a little diversity in the way we view solid waste is very likely a positive change. Turning discussions away from dependence on the "out-of-sight, "out-of-mind" transfer station solution could lead toward more responsible solid waste solutions. We will have to be vigilant as the pie-in-the-sky technocrats who are pushing "waste-to-energy" incineration strategies will continue to push hard. Hopefully, Chapel Hill will work toward greater waste reduction, more composting & recycling, and positive uses for the waste stream.   

Carbon footprint

Sending every truck to Durham to be emptied rather than going to a locally-centered transfer station is going to increase the town's carbon footprint by putting fuel-inefficient trucks on the road more frequently. On top of that, we are in the middle of writing a comprehensive plan which has waste management as one of the topics. Why is the manager making this decision now?

George C's picture

No Decision Yet

Terri,The Town Manager hasn't made any decisions yet.  He has simply said that the Town is considering ending the contract with the County which doesn't expire for another 18 months or so.  He has said the Town is exploring other options and that the option the County is now anticipating, to truck the waste to Durham, is NOT an attractive one.  Not only does it increase the Town's carbon footprint by using fuel, it also increases wear and tear on the trucks and it is not a particularly good use of personnel to have them spend 1-1.5 hours on the road to Durham PLUS whatever time is involved waiting for the truck to be unloaded.I think Roger is more than happy to have folks involved in CH2020 talking about alternatives.  That is one of the Big Rocks that needs immediate attention given the lack of suitable alternatives at this point.

Mark Chilton's picture

Real solution: Build OC Xfer Station & keep landfill til 2015

The only responsible way for us to deal with our non-recyclable, non-reducible [sp?] solid waste is through some sort of regional facility - for example regional composting facility, regional waste-to-energy technology or other emerging technology at a regional scale.  I say these things would need to be regional because we evidently are utterly unable to locate such facilities within Orange County. Also, the size of our waste stream is on the small side for most such technologies/facilities and our goal is to decrease our waste stream which would definitely make it too small for any of the various technologies that I have heard of.However, I think both the technology and the political will for such regional solutions are still years away.  Therefore, the best short-term step (which would be compatible with a future regional technology/facility) would be to create an Orange County Transfer Station.  In the short term this facility would allow for the cost-effective disposal of our solid waste at an out-of-county landfill, which although it is undesirable (b/c it is, at best, amoral to dump our waste on distant, faceless communities). But longer term this would accomodate switching to a regional facility (or facilities).  And it is no more responsible to go to the Durham transfer station (b/c they are simply dumping it on a distant community as well).The reasons we need an Orange County Transfer Station are:1) Transportation cost to the Durham Transfer Station are high - over a million dollars in tax payer money per year;2) carbon footprint (as Terri discusses above); and3) because there will never be another time in the future when it will be easier to site a transfer station in Orange County.On that last point,let me be really clear: Based on all my experience in local government, I know that once we "temporarily" start shipping to Durham, we will never stop.  The opportunity to create an OC Trasfer Station is now.  Later it will be too easy to simply continue paying through the nose to drive to Durham, rather than bite the bullet and make the hard decision to site a Trasfer Station here.The OC Landfill is running out of space at a rate that could allow us to continue to operate the Landfill until 2016 if we wanted to, though RENA and Justice United have been pressing the County Commissioners to close it in mid-2013.  If we chose to keep the Landfill operating until 2015, we would have time between now and then to create an OC Transfer Station, which would keep the largest number of future options available.I don't expect that any of the above is going to be politically popular, but given our present situation it is not just the most responsible option available, but actually, in my opinion, the only responsible option at all.  If you agree with me that Orange County must have a Transfer Station, then I urge you to write your County Commissioners and tell them so:bpelissier@co.orange.nc.us syuhasz@co.orange.nc.us phemminger@bellsouth.net Vfoushee@co.orange.nc.us bjacobs@co.orange.nc.us gordonam@mindspring.com emckee@co.orange.nc.us 

I agree with Mark

I know it would create heart ache and further disillusionment for the Rogers Road residents, but I agree with Mark that we need to use our own landfill until it is completely full. And we need to build our own transfer station. But after all the failed attempts at siting one, it's going to take a minor miracle to accomplish that unless one of the towns steps in an offers up the land.

Mark Chilton's picture

Only one site really makes sense to me . . .

Thanks, Terri.  I suppose that I am about to set off a firestorm, but I do have a suggestion for a site.But first, let me point out what I consider to be the key considerations:1. The site should be in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area because that is where most of the solid waste is generated.  This is an issue of fairness, cost and carbon footprint.2. The site should not add to the burden that has been carried by the Rogers Road community for the last 40 years.3. The site should have as few adjacent residences as possible.4. The site should have excellent access to a major highway so as to minimize both cost and neighborhood impact.Bearing in mind those considerations, there are not many sites that could work.  There are only three Interstate interchanges in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. The I-40 interchange with NC 54 is is technically feasible, but it is in the zoning jurisdiction of the Durham County Commission.  Durham County approving such a plan is politically inconceivable.The I-40 interchange with 15-501 is not very practical as that location is exteremly congested and is almost completely built out. So, the I-40 interchange with NC 86 is the third posibility.  Two corners are already built out and a third corner is owned by the Triangle Land Conservancy (or is it Duke Forest?) But, I think the northwest corner of that interchange could work.  It does have some drawbacks, but it also has some major advantages:A) The site is surrounded on three sides by major highways which would buffer it from adjacent land uses;B) the site is currently being used as a tree farm, growing 30 year old pine trees with no special value so far as I can see (based on only a preliminary inspection from aerial photos); andC) the site has outstanding highway access which would allow trucks to exit to I-40 with the absolute minimum possible impact to neighbors.Honestly, I see three major disadvantages, but I think all three can be or are mitigated: i) While the site is close to the existing landfill as the crow flies, it is worlds away in practical terms (i.e. I-40 is a hugh buffer); ii) the site is adjacent to a decrepit trailer park, which raises some equity issues, but I can think of some possible solutions to that problem, such as replacing that trailer park with a Low Income Housing Tax Credit development (like Dobbins Hill Apartments) on the Greene Tract; andiii) the site is in the Rural Buffer, which will probably cause some political problems, but all sites have political problems (and it is important to realize that a Transfer Station does not require water & sewer).Okay.  Let the firestorm of denunciations commence . . . 

Barbara Crockett's picture

Innovate 2020

I wonder if this could be a breakout group at the Innovate 2020 Unconference on January 21st at UNC? I'm hoping to attend, but not certain I can make it so I'm putting it out here. I think Mark's ideas make a lot of sense. 

Interesting set of

Interesting set of conditions. Why is rail access not included? I do agree that it needs to be located in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area due to the amount of trash that is produced. As Mayor of Carrboro is not a spot in the Carrboro planning area that has rail access more appealing?

Mark Chilton's picture

It is definitely done that

It is definitely done that way in some places, but it makes more sense when you know that you are hauling to a destination which is set up to receive the material by rail.  In our case, both in the short term and in the long term we don't really know whether rail would be at all convenient.  I think ideally we would have a transfer station with both rail and highway access to keep our options open, but the potential Transfer Station sites that are currently on rail are mostly in the Eubanks Road area (which I think we should avoid).

Is This Site Too Close?

Mark,As you think about it, is this too close to Eubanks for your criteria? http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Chapel+Hill+Transit,+Chapel+Hill,n&dad...This property north of where Clyde Rd ends in a parking lot seems to be:1. Owned by the Town of Chapel Hill.2. Along the rail line with space for 1000-foot long trash train sidings that could still be screened by trees from the adjacent properties. 3. Not far from the Interstate.4. Approximately 3/4 of a mile north of Eubanks Rd in the heart of the site.Personally, I don't know enough about trash train operations to know whether or not they would be a good fit here.  It seems that a lot of the common sense things apply: you want the trash cars to be closed, not open, to prevent odors from traveling, for example.  I don't think a rail trash transfer facility could be open near I-40 by the end of 2013, but I think that by the end of 2016, it is eminently feasible.

Mark Chilton's picture

worth considering

It's worth considering - anything on the N/E side of I-40 is far from Eubanks in my opinion.  However, the advantage of the site I suggested is that it is adjacent to highways on three sides, which the site you suggest is not.  But maybe.  We need for the County staff to look at the area to consider feasibility issues, but they have been instructed by the BOCC not to work on this.  That's what needs to change.

Probably Too Close

In the course of discussing landfill impacts on the Rogers Road (RR)/Eubanks Area, RENA representatives are on record saying they think of Millhouse Road to be part of the "historic RR area" and they were opposed to any type of trash facility adjacent to Millhouse Road.

Mark Chilton's picture

rail access

I think rail access would be ideal, but it's not something we are likely to use in the next decade or more.  Plus a big part of the problem is that the rail corridor runs right through the Eubanks Road area and one of my premises is that we should avoid the Rogers/Eubanks area.  The Greene Tract, for example, is on the rail line, but we have already repeatedly told RENA that we would not use the Greene Tract for that sort of thing.  Also, the Greene Tract has very poor roadway access.The only spot I can think of that is far from Eubanks and on the rail line is at Carolina North, but I don't think it is realistic to expect that UNC would accomodate us in that way - couldn't hurt to ask them, though.

re: rail access

The town of Chapel Hill has an RFQ out to find trash disposal options. They don't think it is feasible (fiscally or environmentally) for their trucks to drive to Durham and wait in line daily. According to Blair Pollack (Orange Co. Solid Waste) and Lance Norris (CH Public Works), rail is not a feasible option. Chapel Hill and Carrboro together do not create enough waste to make it cost effective. Orange County as a whole doesn't either.

Perplexing Transfer Station Cost Question

I am perplexed by a cost aspect of using the Durham Transfer station vs building our own. I assume if we use Durham they would provide transportation from the transfer station to the landfill the cost being included in our tipping fee. If we build our own transfer statin does that not imply we need to implement a method to transport our trash from the transfer station to the landfill. This seems like a pretty huge cost both to setup and maintain and hire a workforce to do this. I suppose this part of the trip could be farmed out but still would seem to be a considerable cost.  Anyone know if those transportation costs to tranport to the landfill are addressed and what they are in any comparisons between using Durham and building our ow??

Mark Chilton's picture

hauling costs

We'd pay those hauling costs through the tipping fees at the OC Transfer Station - much of those fees being paid by private haulers as happens now.  Without an OC Transfer Station, all the private hauler tip fees go to the private company that operates the Durham Transfer Station.  County staff has done projections on this and the savings are very significant.  As well an OC Transfer Station would afford us an opportunity to control matters such as our cardboard ban etc. - no such control is possible at the Durham Transfer Station b/c the private company that runs it wants as much trash as possible (b/c that is more money that they make).

Durham Recycling

Mark, are you presuming that Durham doesn't recycle? Sounds like you are -- or at least succumbing to the Chapel Hill/Carrboro habit of presuming that no other community in the state knows what it's doing. Durham recycles quite well, thank you, using co-mingled collections that take in vastly more different types of materials than the source-separated system Orange was using back in the LOG days (and probably still is). Cardboard is recycled in Durham and goes into the same bin with all other recyclables.

Mark Chilton's picture

Typical

No, but you are succumbing to the habit of putting words in my mouth.  None of this has anything to do with Durham's recycling program.  It has to do with the way that a private company in Durham operates, Ray.

Incorrect

Trouble is you started from a false premise, that a private company is running Durham's transfer station. As of this moment it's being run by Durham's Solid Waste Management Dept. They also do recycling collections in-house and send the stuff to a private contractor that has a MRF in Raleigh. The decision to go with that contractor has contributed to an increase in recycling and a large cost savings (~$3M reduction in solid waste management costs since FY09, not all of that attributable to recycling).  There are plans to issue an RFP to see if private-sector bidders would be interested in running the transfer station and recycling processing both. But it's probably going to be a while before we see what the answers are, never mind how that all shakes out.

Mark Chilton's picture

Wrong again, Ray.

The Durham Transfer Station is run by a private company, Ray.  And what the guy at the gate said (without realizing who he was talking to) was "No, we got no rules about cardboard. Throw it in!"And he said that because the more you throw, the more their company makes.Also there are about a half dozen other materials that are prohibitted at the Orange County Landfill, but accepted with open arms at the Durham Transfer Station.

Dan Coleman's picture

"the more you throw, the more their company makes"

This is the ethos we must guard against in any discussion of solid waste solutions. Waste disposal methods must be consistent not just with recycling but with source reduction as well. The goal is not just to lower our own disposal costs and to make better use of materials but also to push back against the whole extraction-to-consumption-to-waste paradigm under which we are destroying our habitat. Any company we work with should be expected to embrace and partner with us in formulating increasingly aggressive waste reduction goals. If Durham Transfer Station can't do that then there's another strong argument for Mark's proposal.

15-501 and I-40

Based only on the easy access to the Durham transfer station, I wonder if there aren't any sites close to 15-501 and I-40. If that is the area being considered for the rail line, wouldn't siting the transfer station close to there be a viable option? It wouldn't be very convenient for Carrboro is one of the only drawbacks I see (the other is timing).

Mark Marcoplos's picture

Good proposal

One quick highlight - Mark is absolutely right that, if we start using a Durham transfer station, it will be next to impossible to stop doing thatLook at how the entire solid waste issues has been continually avoided and swept under the rug by the BOCC over the last twenty years. One addition to the proposal would be a fair and detailed mitigation plan for the Rogers Rd. community.

Mark Chilton's picture

Rogers Road Mitigation

Rogers Road Mitigation is essential and must happen regardless of what we end up doing with our solid waste. One additional advantage of my proposal to keep the landfill open until the 2015-6 timeframe (so that we have time to build a transfer station) is that it would allow us to build up more money for Rogers-Eubanks mitigation.  Right now we are bankrolling $5/ton of tipping fees for Rogers Rd mitigation, but when the landfill closes, that revenue stream will end. 

Mark Chilton's picture

Hauling Cost to Durham

Here's TOCH's latest staff memo on this topic.  Notice Public Works Director Lance Norris estimates (based on actual use of that station) that hauling to the Durham Transfer Station will cost Chapel Hill an extra $500,000 to $600,000 per year.  Carrboro will have to pay over $200,000 extra per year on top of that.  About $750,000 in extra costs for Chapel Hill and Carrboro taxpayers every year!  MEMORANDUM TO: Roger L. Stancil, Town ManagerFROM: Lance Norris, Public Works DirectorSUBJECT: Status Report on Future Solid Waste Collection and Disposal OptionsDATE: January 23, 2012 PURPOSE The purpose of this memo is to provide Council with an update on the Town’s solid waste collection and disposal options for the future. In light of recent developments, namely the possible closure of the Orange County Landfill by the spring of 2013, the Town is exploring alternative sustainable and viable options for solid waste collection and disposal. This memo summarizes the Town’s efforts, to date, to begin exploring options for solid waste collection anddisposal, which are as follows: 1. An Independent Comprehensive Review of Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Options. 2. A Residential and Commercial Solid Waste Pilot Program to Durham. BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION The Interlocal Agreement obligates the County to provide the Town with two year’s notice to terminate the Agreement. To date, the Town has not received official notice. The Orange County Commissioners have expressed their intent to close the landfill as early as the spring of 2013, which, in the absence of an alternative provided by the County (for example, a transfer station), would effectively constitute a termination of the Agreement as to solid waste. In light of this development, the Town has begun proactively exploring alternative options for solid waste disposal, as well as ways of increasing efficiency with solid waste collection. Wendy Simmons, the Town’s new Solid Waste Services Superintendent, will play a central role in overseeing these projects going forward. Wendy has a Masters Degree in Environmental Management from Duke University. She has many years of work experience in the field of solid waste management, including tenure with NCDENR and most recently with the City of Asheville, where she was the Solid Waste Manager. The Town will continue to explore additional innovative and realistic opportunities for solid waste management that align with our organizational values and commitments to sustainability, economic vitality and cost-effectiveness. Comprehensive Review of Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Options Consultant Project The Public Works Department put out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to provide the Town with a Comprehensive Review of Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Options on November 16, 2011. The primary goals of this project are to: 1. Conduct a complete review of the Town of Chapel Hill’s current solid waste collection and disposal practices, including residential waste, commercial waste, white goods, yard waste, and brush. 2. Present a comprehensive set of options for the Town’s future management of solid waste collection and disposal. These options should include opportunities for enhancing and/or streamlining the Town’s current solid waste disposal and collection activities, as well as those the Town does not currently manage, such as recycling and energy conversion (including waste-to-energy). 3. Identify opportunities for public-private partnership (i.e. waste to energy), including specific partners, for the implementation of an enhanced solid waste management system. The Town received proposals from seven firms by the December 5th deadline, and will interview in late January two consulting firms who meet the criteria established in the RFQ and have the required diversity of experience and expertise in solid waste management. The staff anticipates making a selection of the firm by mid-February and receiving sufficient information that will allow for decisions as it relates to the impact on the budget for FY 2013. Solid Waste Pilot Program to Durham In an effort to begin actively exploring alternatives for solid waste disposal options, the Town conducted a two-week pilot program transporting residential and commercial solid waste to the Durham Transfer Station. The Town staff is in the process of evaluating the results of the pilot program. Our preliminary review of the results are consistent with our earlier fiscal impact estimates, based on the current method of providing the in-house services. Key findings of the pilot program are as follows: · The average travel distance to and from the transfer station is approximately 18 miles one-way, adding about an hour of off-route travel time per trip. During peak hours the wait time at the transfer station may be slightly greater than those experienced during the pilot. · The vehicles participating in the pilot program experienced no maintenance issues on the way to or from the Durham Transfer Station. We believe that the programmed allowance for additional maintenance associated with the mileage is still reasonable at this time. Total additional costs moving forward will depend on decisions made relative to collection and disposal options. If we begin hauling solid waste to Durham, estimated additional annual costs resulting from the increase in hauling distance would be between $500,000 and $600,000. An additional consideration is the increased safety risk to our employees and the liability to the Town of placing fully loaded solid waste vehicles and drivers on an interstate highway. RECOMMENDATIONS That the Council receive this report.

Mark Chilton's picture

Carrboro Staff Report

MemoTo: Mayor & Board of AldermenFrom: Matt Efird, Interim Town ManagerCC: George Seiz, Public Works DirectorDate: 1/13/12Re: Response to Request for Information Based on a conversation with Mayor Chilton, please see the attached information that was provided to the Board in October. The immediate impact of transporting waste to Durham beginning in spring 2013 is that the Town will have to budget an additional $87,600 for Solid Waste for FY 2012-2013. This includes one quarter of increased personnel, fuel and maintenance costs and debt service on a new front-end loader that the Town would be required to purchase in 2012 to have available for spring 2013. That figure equates to slightly less than ½ cent on the tax rate. Beginning in 2013-2014, the full annual impact of transporting to the Durham transfer station will hit the Town’s budget. The chart shows that the Town will incur approximately $50k per year (over 5 years) in debt service for equipment, plus additional labor, maintenance and fuel in excess of $150,000 per year. The tax impact is expected to be between 1.07 and 1.15 cents on the current tax rate. The chart also shows that if the County were to keep the landfill open and increase the tipping fee by 10% each year (which is allowed by the current interlocal agreement), that transporting to Durham becomes the cheaper option in 2014-2015. I was unable to get similar information from the Town of Chapel Hill today, but I will forward it to the Board when I receive it. [Can't readily copy the chart to OP. Sorry.] 

Mark Chilton's picture

Terri's asking the right question

This is a really key question, Terri.  And I don't think the answer is at all clear.  All OC recycling functions are paid for by our 3-R fee which we pay as part of our tax bills, so there's no reason that that service would need to be discontinued after the landfill closes.  Yet the Commissioners' non-solution is forcing both Chapel Hill and Carrboro to look at all options.  I am not sure whether Carrboro staff is looking at going our own way on recycling, but TOCH staff has said that they are looking at it.And that sort of thing is really what worries me most.  Orange County, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro are held up as the model for intergovernmental co-operation on solid waste planning, recycling, composting and waste reduction, but this disposal issue is threatening to tear the whole system to shreds.We were the first (and only?) county to achieve the state-mandated waste reduction goals.  And we continue to be at the absolute forefront on environmentally responsible solid waste management in all of North Carolina.  People come from literally all over the world to see the system we have put together.  Last year we had visitors coming to look at our solid waste management system from Eastern Europe, Asia and the Carribean. And I am not just talking local bureaucrats either: The National Chinese Minister for the Environment came here to see our system!But right now, it looks like the whole thing could fall apart, which would really be tragic.   

Mark's Plan

Mark's plan is a well thought out plan and one that I think would be best for Orange County. I think it is key to keep all the towns and the county in the same infrastructure, preserving and expanding on the success we have had in recycling.Hopefully if this plan is pursued, we can get the neighbors of the current landfill on board to support an extension of the current landfill closing by somehow expediting the mitigation and resolving neighborhood issues with solid concrete results in order to get agreement to extend the landfill closing.The location Mark proposes seems like a good one. Transfer stations if well run don't seem to have a huge affect on neighbors, don't have a large footprint and the location seems far enough to buffer neighbors in the area. It seem like existing noise from I-40 especially existing truck traffic rumbling through at all hours of the night would be a bigger problem than noise from a well maintained and covered transfer station. Also the much larger current Chapel Hill town facilities aren't that far from the same neighborhood. Has this facility been a problem for neighbors??  

Mark Chilton's picture

Justice United

Thanks, Adrian.  Alderman Randee Haven-O'Donnell and I met with JU's Environmental Justice Sub-Committee last night and had a very long, but ultimately productive discussion.  I think the key points from that meeting are:1.  In principle, JU had no objection to a Transfer Station as a part of the solution to our community's problem.2.  So far as it concerned those at the meeting, the NW corner of I-40 and NC 86 is not, on the face of it, out of the question.3.  JU wants the landfill closed ASAP.4.  If the local governments will take action (make a binding, meaningful commitment) to build sewers for Rogers Road etc., JU was open to the possibility of hearing about a little more landfill time in order to construct a transfer station.  I want to be clear that they did not agree to this, but rather expressed a willingness to consider this.But, that said, there are a number of outstanding issues, including:1.  Who would own/operate such a transfer station?2.  Exactly how would local governments demonstrate their commitment to building the sewers etc?3.  How would we ensure that the transfer station would get done in a timely manner so that the landfill operations would not continue to drag on and on? That is, the concern is that our community does not have the best track record on making a transfer station happen in a timely manner.But I think these problems are solvable.

re: Justice United

I'm confused by the position being taken by Justice United. I was copied on the email they sent after Tuesday night's meeting with the BOA and while I understand their position that the Rogers' Road residents have been imposed on due to the landfill, I don't understand why the group doesn't seem to understand (or care about) three (3) points. First, the mitigations that *must* be provided to the Rogers Road neighborhood have no viable funding source other than tipping fees. Second, closing the landfill in Orange Co just means that Orange County is going to impose these same injustices on people in other communities. Third, if the landfill closes (partially or completely) everyone in Orange County, including those who are most financially viable, will be paying higher property taxes to cover the costs of disposing of our waste and imposing it upon others. It won't just be Chapel Hill and Carrboro paying for shipping our waste out of county, it's all of us who currently haul our own to the convenience centers. And it could increase the cost of our recycling pickup too. And if recycling declines, we'll be paying even higher fees for waste disposal.I don't see how 'justice' is going to be served even partially by closing the landfill before we have a new disposal alternative in place. And if we want real justice, we need to find an alternative to shipping out of county. Despite what the letter from Justice United said, this is not just an urban problem. It impacts everyone in the county.

Mark Marcoplos's picture

Recycling & economic development

We also should be putting our money where our mouths are and seriously exploring industries in our Economic Development Districts that utilize segments of the waste stream. This could range from a plant that makes asphalt from old shingles to a manufacturing facility that makes items out of recycled plastic to a biofuels operaion that utilizes some select ingredients. These would be regional in scope, provide jobs & revenue, and facilitate smarter waste policies in the region. 

Mark Chilton's picture

Correction / Clarification / Apology

Based on offline discussions with Ray Gronberg, it appears that he has better information than I do about who runs the Durham Transfer Station.  Ray verified his information with the Durham City Manager and I did not.  The person who provided me the information about the facility being run by a private contractor was evidently wrong.Nevertheless, the main point of the comments above is that if we use the Durham Transfer Station we are at the mercy of those who set policy for the Durham Transfer Station and it is possible that their priorities may not be the same as ours.  That concerns me.On another matter, I personally apologize to Ray for my "typical" comment above.  Part of one of my comments above was overly defensive.  It has been my experience that many local media outlets are eager to write stories in which one local government is insulting another local government.  I have had bad experiences with some reporters twisting my words to create such stories.  However, Ray Gronberg is not just a reporter; he is a journalist.  He is the type of experienced and informed professional that Journalism needs more of.  Sorry for letting my bad experiences with others in the industry sour our discussion of the issues, Ray.

Details of "closing the landfill"

Since Mark raised this issue, I've been wondering exactly what "closing the landfill" means. So today I called and asked Gayle Wilson that question. Here's what I learned and what I will be sharing with the Nurturing Our Community group (comprehensive plan). The waste management services located along Eubanks Road consist of: 1) the municipal solid waste landfill (which is the issue under debate), 2) convenience center for dropping off household solid waste and recycling, 3) construction and demolition landfill, 4) recycling processing, 5) maintenance operations, 6) administration offices, 7) electronics recycling, 8) regular yard waste and storm debris collection, 9) composting, 10) equipment storage (trucks, etc.), 11) tires and metals collection, 12) household hazardous waste collection, 13) emergency storm debris management, and 14) methane recovery.The only function currently scheduled to close is the municipal solid waste landfill. All of these other functions will stay open, and together they constitute the vast majority of the county's total solid waste management operations. Closing the landfill will not reduce truck traffic or the number of people visiting the area, but will eliminate the portion of the operations that generates the majority of the revenue.  If the revenue goes away, it's possible that some of the services will go away. The biggest change that will come from closing the MSW landfill will be odor control. However, the introduction of landfill gas recovery operations should greatly mitigate against current odor problems. Closing the landfill will eliminate the odor problems completely. Even after the landfill closes, there will still be landfill gas, but they can't predict how much methane will be recovered. When closed, the landfill will be covered which will increase the heat but it will also reduce the moisture which will change the composition of the recovered gases. The quantity of methane extracted from the total complement of landfill gases is determined by the mixture of heat and moisture.There's a lot more but I think I've covered the major points.  

Mark Chilton's picture

What would you spend $750,000 on?

Driving our trash to Durham will cost between $700,000 and $800,000 per year (and burn an extra 65,000 gallons of diesel fuel).  We don't have that money to spend, and even if we did, would that really be the best way to spend $750,000? I can think of lots of more important community needs to spend that kind of money on, but I am asking for your help.  Come to this new website and tell our County Commissioners if you were going to increase public spending by $750,000 what would you spend it on?www.whatwouldyouspend750kon.org

More information

I spoke with the Chatham Co solid waste director this morning because I knew that the Pittsboro mayor has a deep interest in waste to energy. I called to ask if they have any consultant reports but got much more information. A couple of years ago, Orange and Chatham Co were investigating the feasibility of co-developing a new landfill. However, that project fell apart when the Chatham Co commissioners said they would not take waste from out of county. As a result of that decision it was no longer economically feasible for Chatham to build a new landfill. So they are sending trucks to any one of 3 transfer stations (Siler City, Durham, and one other). All 3 transfer stations deliver waste to Sampson Co. The Sampson Co landfill is owned and operated by Waste Industries. Waste Industries also operates the transfer station in Durham. The cost of disposal is much lower (roughly half the cost) when using a transfer station that is vertically integrated with the disposal site/landfill.Chatham did investigate waste-to-energy, but determined that the business model is not yet matured enough to support the high cost of a building a facility. Based on the reports they received, the power companies will not commit to a long-term contract to buy the power at a rate upon which they can make the construction and operation of a facility cost effective. The highly touted St. Lucie FL plant is has been on hold for a couple of years for this reason.There is also the issue, as has been previously discussed, of the impact WTE plays on recycling. Since you generate more power by having more tonnage, the motivation to support/advocate waste reduction and recycling is at odds with making WTE cost effective. There are a couple of factors that make certain WTE facilities cost effective:--In areas such as the northeast US, the cost of sufficient land for building a landfill is so high that the WTE costs are roughly equivalent. That is not the case in our area (yet). --In the Scandanavian countries, waste management and power generation are government owned. So they sell themselves power to operate the plant at the lowest possible cost, and they have the long-term assurance of selling the power back to offset the costs.Not sure if anyone else is interested in all of these details, but I find them helpful in understanding and negotiating the politics surrounding this topic. Landfilling and waste-to-energy are solutions. We really need to understand the full extent of the problems we will face is selecting a solution before those solutions are put before us. 

Waste Industries

Oy. Would ya'll get it into your heads that the Durham transfer station on Club Boulevard is operated by city of Durham staff, not by Waste Industries or any other private contractor.

Chris Weaver's picture

....That tweet feed....I

....That tweet feed....I Love the Idea of CH taking responcibility of their own waste.  An OC transfer station I understand is preferablead D2 can defray D1's costs. I do not think that is in the interests of D2. Any reduction on the taxpayers of D2 to aid in carrying the load for CH Carb is a wonderful idea.Lets apply it to the Chapel Hill Choo Choo.cw  Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec

Please post ALL comments

Unless they are spam, all comments should be posted.  This is supposed to be a place for dialogue, not censorship, right?  I am eager to continue the conversation on this subject!

Thank you.