Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Landfills and other LULUs

The Chapel Hill News this Sunday reported a conversation at the local assembly of county governments meeting about the problem of waste disposal in Orange County. Some years ago, political leaders decided as a matter of policy that no more landfills would be sited in the county--that once the current landfill reached its limit, our trash would be shipped to some place "off." Like Jim Ward of Chapel Hill and Joal Broun of Carrboro, who said so at the meeting, I'm not comfortable with that decision.

A landfill is a LULU--a locally undesirable land use. The trouble with sending your trash elsewhere is that elsewhere, too, is somewhere. A few years ago, the commissioners down east in Greene County decided that hosting a regional landfill would be a good way to pull their decaying economy out of the dumpster. So they hastily approved one. The trouble is that they cut a few corners--rules meant to ensure that if you do site a new landfill, you don't put it right next to the old one, burdening the same community, unless there really is no other choice. I was part of the legal team that helped Greene County citizens fight their elected officials all the way to the Court of Appeals, where they won.

Later, under questionable circumstances, Greene County became the site of a new state prison. Yup, that's another LULU.

UPDATE via Frank Warren of Greene County: Peaceful demonstration opposing the siting of landfills in North Carolina scheduled for 3 p.m. May 16 in Sandyfield, Columbus County. "Estimates show that North Carolina could become the nation's fourth largest trash importer if five large landfills proposed in the rural eastern and piedmont counties of Brunswick, Camden, Columbus, Hyde, and Richmond are built." The attractions to landfill operators are low-priced land, the central East Coast location, and North Carolina's lack of a surcharge on garbage. "We must ask ourselves are we ready for trash to become one of North Carolina's biggest import commodities."

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