The rest of the landfill story

Published 7:47 pm Monday, March 26, 2007

Dear Editor:

Recently (22 February 2007) you printed a well-written letter from the Concerned Citizens of Pearl River County regarding Central Landfill. In their letter the Concerned Citizens gave arguments why the Waste Management requests for expansion should be denied. In reading their letter, and knowing nothing else about the issue, I’m sure that anyone would agree with them. But they didn’t tell us some important parts of the story. They didn’t tell us that all voting members of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee voted in favor of the request to alter the “horseshoe” footprint and expand the permitted fill area. Or that 4 of the 5 voting members voted in favor of the request to expand the solid waste collection area. Nor did they tell you that Mr. Richard Swenson, an active member of Concerned Citizens, is a voting member of the Advisory Committee. Now why would the citizen members of this Advisory Committee vote so overwhelmingly in favor of the Waste Management request for expansion? I cannot speak for the other members but I can tell you why I voted in favor of the requests. I have been a member of all of the Advisory Committees since the first one was appointed about 6 years ago, and I was the first Chairman. This committee was established by our Board of Supervisors as a away of getting citizen input and technical evaluation of solid waste disposal issues. The most recent committee met numerous times, considered the facts, and voted for what we believe is in the best interests of the citizens of Pearl River County.

So, why did I vote Yes? As the longest serving committee member and a resident of Pearl River County for almost 30 years, I have watched our supervisors continuing struggle to solve our trash and garbage problem. I have seen us go from a county with no garbage collection where citizens did whatever they wanted with their garbage; including throwing it in the woods, along the roadways, creeks, or on built-up dumpsites, to regular collection and regulated storage of our trash. I would not like to go back, even for a short period, to a condition of no garbage collection. In our committee investigations Waste Management convinced me that without approval of both of their requests that Central Landfill was in serious danger of closing. The area manager for Waste Management stated more than once that his company has decided not to build any more storage cells because of the inefficiency of the “horseshoe” shaped permit area and that the present and last cell will be full in approximately 14 months. He also implied during committee questioning that the present monthly garbage collection rate is marginal for funding new cell construction and continuing operation of this expensive storage facility. In response to my questions regarding continued operation of Central if both expansion requests were granted, he said it would give him a good chance to keep Central open but he could not guarantee it.

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So what would you do if your garbage was not picked up this week and you found out that Central had closed? Waste Management is a private business and can decide what is best for their business as long as they meet the environmental requirements placed on them by the State. Our Supervisors by the way decided years ago not to get into the garbage business because of the high cost and significant increase in property taxes that would be required to fund it. Yes, there are other legal ways of disposing of our garbage but nothing is in place now and the projected cost to us doesn’t appear well known. So, I was simply not willing to take the chance that we might not have a legal garbage disposal solution in the near future. Is Waste Management telling me the truth? I don’t know for sure. From all I’ve learned over the past 6 years, Waste Management’s request appears logical and necessary to keep Central open and perhaps it appeared the same to most of the other members of the citizen’s Advisory Committee considering how they voted.

I also believe our Supervisors are working hard to solve our garbage disposal problem in a way that does not place the entire expense on us. If money were not an important consideration, we could do all sorts of legal things to deal with our trash. Please remember that we, not the Supervisors, created this problem by being modern consumers and if we pressure our Supervisors in any direction without having all of the facts we may just find our garbage setting out front next week with no legal place for it to go. What will you do then?