Wednesday, April 01, 2009

[indyweek] Trash Talk: Where should Orange County stick its garbage?

by Matt Saldaña
March 11, 2009

Amber Kirby, who works from home for a database marketing company, lives in the heart of dairy farmland in southwestern Orange County. She and her husband are raising their two children on their homestead, which the Kirby family has owned for generations.

"One of the reasons we wanted to live back here is it's nice and peaceful," she said. "We have herds of deer we've named."

Yet the ancestral land in Bingham Township also has the distinction of being sandwiched between two sites the county is considering for a 250 ton-per-day waste transfer station. Six days a week, roughly 45 dump trucks from Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and the University of North Carolina would pass her house on the two-lane N.C. 54 en route to the station. From there, semi-trailer trucks would haul the trash to an undetermined landfill, as the Orange County landfill will be full in 2011. As Kirby put it, her family lives "between a rock and a hard place."

That phrase could also apply to Orange County, which like any government, has to wrestle with the sticky issue of where to put its trash.

Over the past 10 years, the commissioners' failure to solve the waste issue has spawned intense opposition in Orange County: Citizens' groups have formed to fight the landfill and waste transfer station, threatening to file an injunction against the county over the site. The federal government investigated racial discrimination claims over the landfill on Eubanks Road. And other town councils and appointed boards, alienated by the county's actions, or lack of them, are fighting to protect their turf.

As for the recent controversy, 16 months and $254,000 later—the amount the county paid to Charlotte-based consultants, Olver Inc., to search for the best location for the waste transfer station—the final two sites are, at best, imperfect solutions to the uglier problem of a county with nowhere to dump its garbage.

[View the entire article at the Independent Weekly.]