Beaufort County has announced the purchase of 42 acres in Okatie that could one day become a countywide trash and recycling facility.
Land for the potential transfer station is at 97 Chechessee Road off S.C. 170, near the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority office. The site is near several homes and the access road to gated communities on Callawassie and Spring islands.
A purchase agreement has been signed by the seller, and county attorney Josh Gruber expects the sale to close within 45 days. The $850,000 price will be paid for with low-interest, short-term borrowing.
Beaufort County currently hauls its trash to the Hickory Hill landfill in Jasper County, owned by Waste Management. The dump will be full in six to 13 years, according to county officials.
State law prohibits creation of a landfill within 75 miles of an existing one, so the county couldn't start building a replacement now, even if it had the land to do so.
There is no guarantee the transfer station will ever be built, either, County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville said, adding that permitting for such a facility would take as long as five years.
However, the land purchase gives the county another option if and when Hickory Hill is full.
"We have to know beyond the end of our nose where we are going to send this stuff and that requires planning," Sommerville said.
The county also is required under state law to have a 20-year plan for solid-waste removal, Gruber said.
"This is our attempt to try to find a long-term solution ... for what the county is going to do with our waste if and when Hickory Hill would close," he said.
Trash would be hauled from throughout the county to the station, where it would be compacted, baled and loaded onto trucks destined for a landfill. Recyclable materials would be separated, baled and taken to processing facilities.
Gruber said the facility offers potential savings by lowering the number of trips from the county to a landfill. "It's the transportation costs that are significant," he said. "That's why you have to maximize value on a per-ton basis by cramming as much tonnage into a truck as you can."
County Council authorized the purchase May 20 by a 10-1 vote. At the time, the county declined to discuss a possible use for the land until the sale agreement was signed.
Councilman Brian Flewelling, who represents the area and cast the lone vote against the purchase, believes another site should be picked.
This site, he said, is environmentally sensitive and is too close to neighborhoods, homes and a marsh. It's also adjacent to land county taxpayers bought through the Rural and Critical Lands preservation program.
"I think it will be a troublesome neighbor," Flewelling said. "I think other properties are more suitable for that."
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.