Time to better explain county trash proposal

info@islandpacket.comNovember 8, 2013 

Good for a Beaufort County Council committee for formally opposing this week a trash transfer station in the Chechessee area.

A resolution approved 3-2 by the council's Natural Resources Committee may not sway the full council, which could consider it on Nov. 18.

But at the very least it should force the council and county administration to better inform the public on how this fits into long-term plans on several very important fronts: solid waste management, land use and environmental protection.

In May, the county bought 43.5 acres near Callawassie Island and Spring Island, announcing it could one day be home to a countywide trash and recycling transfer station. All trash would be hauled there, dumped, then hauled to an unspecified landfill farther away.

Neighbors immediately objected. The three council members who voted to oppose that use for the land are representatives of districts closest to it.

But there is more to this than the not-in-my-backyard syndrome.

The county sprang this major change on the public with little warning, and even less context.

When council set its goals for 2013 -- two months into the year -- it stated a vision for a transfer station to manage recycling and trash. It also noted that permitting and other requirements for the facility could take a decade or more. Three months later, it paid $850,000 for the Chechessee tract, using a bond anticipation note.

In light of this new, formal opposition to that plan, the county should show its traffic and environmental studies that led it to choose this site. It should show what other sites were considered, and the pluses and minuses of each. It should show how each potential site fit into the county's long-range plan for solid-waste disposal. It should update the public on what it has done to permit the Chechessee site for this purpose.

The primary justification stated for this land purchase is that the privately owned landfill now being used by the county will be full in as few as six years, and the county needs more options to negotiate better future deals with Waste Management or other landfill owners.

This week's committee resolution, and steady public feedback from the first announcement of this plan, prove that people heavily vested in this beautiful nook of the Lowcountry don't like their quality of life being called a bargaining chip.

Counties have a legal mandate to handle trash and recycling, and we support counties having a strong say in how it is handled. We oppose state legislation that would prevent counties from requiring trash to be hauled to a specific location -- a bill pushed by big trash companies.

The clock ran out on the bill during the last legislative session, said Sen. Tom Davis, a Beaufort Republican, but will likely come up for debate in January when lawmakers return to Columbia.

Local control is good. But it also requires greater accountability to residents, voters and taxpayers. Beaufort County has more explaining to do on the proposed Chechessee trash transfer station, and the committee vote has given it an opportunity to do so.

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