Before we trash the rural buffer ...Letter from the Justice United Environmental Team

The following letter was drafted by the members of Orange County Justice United’s Environmental Team and published in last Sunday’s Chapel Hill News.

It provides some ideas to ponder as we consider short and long-term solutions for our trash:

Thanks to our elected officials for recognizing that whatever we decide to do with our trash, dumping it on the Rogers Road community is no longer an option.

The county landfill is closing in 2013. Our elected officials also agreed that a community center fulfills the promise made when the landfill was originally sited - although the details, including funding, remain up for discussion. Sewer may also be forthcoming - after a task force first determines the parameters for the community center.

It's progress - good progress - but needs clarity around commitment, dates and responsibilities. As community leaders, we will remain involved until this important work is done.

There's still the question of what to do with our trash after the landfill closes. The towns have known for years that the landfill was at the end of its life and that the county was unable to find a suitable site for a transfer station. In early 2009, county leaders decided to truck their trash to a waste transfer station in Durham. It's not an ideal solution - but it's the only one that the county or its Solid Waste Advisory Board has been able to come up with.

At the last minute, Carrboro leaders began to lobby for a transfer station at the northwest corner of I-40 and N.C. 86. The site is not in the town's jurisdiction. It is in the rural buffer established more than 20 years ago to contain sprawl and keep projects like this one out of the rural community.

The proposed site is close to the trash and it's not in the Rogers Road community - but there are other challenges. It compromises the rural buffer with unwanted municipal development. There's no water or sewer infrastructure to capture the runoff from the trucks and chemicals used to clean the facility.

The issues with the site have solutions - which add cost and complexity to an otherwise straightforward project. It may be worth a look - but there are better alternatives, and town officials appear to be poised to look at them.

Chapel Hill leaders plan to hire a consultant to look at options - a plan we applaud given the issues involved. They are not just looking at the next three to five years but at the long-term options for converting waste to energy. They appear to have the ear of UNC, with its expertise in managing power plants and feedstocks.

In the short term, Chapel Hill may want to build a small transfer station of its own. The town has several good locations - with water and sewer and that are not in anyone's backyard. These sites are adjacent to commercial and retail centers, or part of upcoming development projects. If Chapel Hill works with UNC, they can share the costs and possibly use a utility site on the Carolina North Campus. Carrboro has been invited to join them. Together, the two towns and the university produce nearly 70 percent of the county's trash.

Proven waste vendors, such as Republic or Waste Management, are waiting in the wings to provide proposals for service. Such proposals are free and exploit the massive assets and experience of these companies.

Industry consensus is that a town transfer station would cost less than $3 million to build. With a five- to 10-year contract, vendors are likely to quote a tipping fee that's lower than the current county landfill fees. There are many service models - including the option of using the transfer station to improve recycling and other waste services.

The leading vendors manage large landfills and recycling centers as part of their offering. By bundling services, they can offer deep discounts. The savings could be substantial and could even fund research into long-term solutions. That's in addition to streamlining and simplifying our current waste management system - which is 20 years old and designed around a closing landfill.

The issues are complex, and there are good options for the next few years. Our leaders appear poised to start with alternatives that are more promising than dumping our trash in the rural buffer.

This column was written by the leaders of Justice United's Environmental Team: David Caldwell and Robert Campbell of the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association; Stan Cheren and Bonnie Hauser of Orange County Voice and Tish Galu and Stephanie Perry of Justice United




Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.