Trash Talk: Plan B and Option D?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

September 1st, the Orange County Board of Commissioners will once again review the progress of siting a new trash transfer site within the county (agenda here [PDF]).

The good news is that the “Plan B” option I pushed for in 2008 (here and here), utilizing Durham’s transfer site until Orange County sorts the site selection mess out, is firmly established on the agenda.

The bad news is that the Millhouse/Rogers Road community is under new assualt from “Option D” (here).

“Option D”, like Mayor Foy’s poorly considered suggestion to use property adjacent to the Town Operation Center on Millhouse, suggests using county land north of the old landfill on Millhouse.

Where and when was this option introduced?

I’ve asked BoCC Mike Nelson to clarify the genesis and integration of this new last minute twist on the troubled trash transfer site debate.

Orange County Voice Pushes Plan B

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Orange County Voice, another Orange County organization working on the trash transfer site issue along side Preserve Rural Orange, has picked up on the Plan B options I have posted on as recently as last Fall (Trash Talk:Commissioner Gordon “No Plan B”).

Bonnie Hauser, Tony Blake, Susan Walser (recent editorial) and other members have done their homework, presented their cases both for cost effectively using existing local transfer services (one of the options I proposed to the Orange County Commissioners starting several years ago) to partnering with UNC on Waste To Energy facilities [OCV research].

Feb. 11th they renewed their call as reported by Mark Schultz in the Chapel Hill News.

The report says vendors charge $40 to $50 per ton to dispose of waste using existing facilities. Two vendors run waste transfer facilities in Durham and are willing to take Orange County’s waste on a monthly or yearly basis, the report says.

By contrast, the report says Orange County estimates it would cost $47 to $62 per ton to dispose of waste using a new county transfer station. The difference comes in the county’s spending too much to buy property, spending too much to build the facility and locating it in a rural area that lacks water and sewer services, according to Orange County Voice.

The Commissioner’s have opted to research (Herald Sun, Jan. 27th, 2009) alternatives to siting and building a new facility in the particularly troublesome proposed Hwy 54 locale. The race is on to see if common sense and a keen eye towards the future will win out over the current course of events.

Trash Talk: Will We Stand United?

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

Aesop, 6th Century BC

Had an opportunity tonight to listen in on a group of concerned Hillsborough and southwest Orange County citizens discuss the potential siting of the trash transfer facility in their neighborhoods (Eno River Economic Zone – 2 sites and Hwy. 54 corridor – 3 sites).

A number of issues were raised at the meeting: apparent bias in site selection, the “surprise” announcement of the sites on Hwy. 54 and the Hillsborough zone, weighting of access to water and sewer hookups sans cost of making those connections, inadequate traffic studies, confusing or misapplied scoring of technical criteria, whether the BOCC would implement the more costly enclosed transfer site design previously proposed for Eubanks or shave some costs by going with an open pavilion, concern that Chapel Hill’s/Carrboro’s increased transportation costs were improperly used to justify removing Durham County’s transfer site from consideration, underestimation of water use (500 gals. a day!), possible “hidden” reasons for acquiring 82 acres ($7.5 million the current asking price) instead of a smaller tract, if incineration and ultimate in-county disposal got due attention and a slew of others which I’m sure the Rogers Road community are well acquainted with.

Nathan Robinson, the environmental engineer I wrote about Sept. 16th, a founding member of Orange County Community Awareness, gave the clearest deconstruction of the current solid waste transfer site selection mess that I’ve seen. Orange County’s consultant, Olver, should review his presentation to improve their own dog-n-pony show.

Nathan quickly out-lined the dimensions of the issue, discussing what a solid waste transfer site does, how it is laid out, managed and maintained before launching into an analysis, from his professional viewpoint as an environmental engineer, of the problems associated with the current siting process.

Nathan’s concerns mirror a number of mine, especially in terms of the weighting of the selection criteria, the incredibly confusing community criteria feedback procedure, biased scoring of the technical criteria, analysis of environmental consequences and the evaluation of Orange County’s waste creation “center of gravity” (my Mar. 9th, 2007 post on that issue: 2035 Orange County’s Garbage Center of Gravity? ).

As folks that have read my ‘blog know (or have heard me whinge on about local issues elsewhere), I promote reality-based decision-making using measurable criteria. Not all issues are amenable to this approach. Sometimes you have to make a subjective call – say as to the weighting of the importance of environmental justice in the current transfer site process. As I noted a couple years ago, the previous decision by Orange County’s Solid Waste Advisory Board to plop this new facility back on Eubanks sorely lacked rigor, objectivity and transparency.

I questioned SWAB’s ability to make a sound decision because they didn’t generally use objective, understandable, measurable criteria – technical or otherwise – and what criteria they did use were inequitably evaluated differently depending on context and perceived necessity.

Because of that disconnect, I lobbied the Board of Commissioners (BOCC) to create a more thoughtful process grounded by sound engineering principles, guided by community standards. I was encouraged by the process they adopted, but, just as the BOCC themselves admitted on return from their summer break, greatly concerned by Olver’s implementation.

The folks of Rogers Road shared my concerns and expressed their uneasiness at the BOCC’s Sept. 16th meeting.

Of the concerns expressed and the comments made at the meeting, two need serious highlighting.

First is the statements by Hillsborough’s elective folks – like Mayor Stevens and Commissioner Gering – to this community that “they didn’t know” about the process or potential siting of the solid waste facility near Hillsborough. I attended several Assembly of Orange County Governments meetings where these issues got a thorough airing. As a quick Google of minutes of these meetings document, Hillsborough’s reps had to know that these sites were in-play.

Second, and really the most encouraging of all the comments, was Nathan’s call to adopt a united and collaborative approach in dealing with these outstanding issues.

He said, clearly, that he has come to understand the depth of Rogers Roads concerns, their 36 year struggle to simply have promises made – promises completed. He said, clearly, that equitable environmental justice was a relevant criteria and that this was not a battle between neighbors. When a few comments from the folks assembled veered into the “us versus them” realm, Nathan and some of the other organizers rose to say that their emphasis was on the overall process – their focus to get an reliably objective analysis within the established criteria and remove the confusion around the more subjective components of Olver’s mission.

Finally, and the most heartening of all, Nathan said he was meeting with Rogers Road resident (and champion) Rev. Campbell today to see how they could work together. I well remember the landfill expansion fight – which pitted neighbor against neighbor. An attempt to avoid that rancor from the outset gives hope the community won’t fracture. Interestingly, the folks around the county starting to deal with UNC’s new airport authority, already recognize that a united approach is a better approach.

My hope? That the BOCC improves the process. That they realize that the solid waste transfer decision is a beginning. And they work knowing how these issues are resolved will set the template for the new landfill selection process.

If you’re just stumbling upon my site and want some background, here’s a few posts and links to get you up to speed:

Additional posts on the issue are available by doing a search on “trash” from the sidebar.

Trash Talk: Time For A New Landfill

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Now is the time to start planning for the next landfill.

As far as searching for a suitable site and getting community buy-in, the bitter fights over the current site on Eubanks should have provided enough lessons on how not to proceed. If those lessons were left unlearned, our local leaders only have to review the recent solid waste transfer site process or the developing UNC Airport Authority issue to see how a new search might avoid some of their pitfalls.

What do I recommend?

Start now. Community involvement with constant updates an absolute necessity. Create multiple steering committees throughout the County. Anticipate population trends and account for them honestly (unlike the factoring out of the spillage of Durham into eastern Orange, the explosion of population in Hillsborough and the blossoming of Mebane). The decision must be based on objective technical criteria complimented by an analysis of community impacts. The site must support anticipated current and future technologies – like methane gas recovery and e-waste recycling – that will not only enhance the environment but provide potentially lucrative returns. Measurable environmental, social and economic effects must guide the final selection (no hand-waving please).

One last ingredient. Backbone.

Selecting the next landfill site will be a long, arduous task. The final decision will take political courage. It doesn’t have to be one that tears our County and community apart.

Trash Transfer Site: And then there were seven?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Quick reminder about tonight’s Board of Commissioner’s working session on siting the Orange County trash transfer station – 5:30PM at the Southern Human Services Center [MAP] (agenda).

I continue to be concerned about the process – including the criteria – but hold out hope that a good result will eventually be crafted. More on tonight’s meeting here (OC), here (DTH), here (HS – registration still required!!!) and here (CHN).

From Neloa Jones and Sharon Cook:

Dear Friends,

Our Orange County Commissioners are getting closer to selecting a site to build a county-wide trash transfer station. Please support the Eubanks-Rogers Road neighborhood in their effort to remove Eubanks Road as a potential site for this new facility. Eleven potential sites have been identified. Most of the other sites are west of White Cross Road along Highway 54 or off of the I-40 and Old 86 intersection.

This attachment shows all of the potential sites [SEE GRAPHIC]. Every current and future garbage truck in the county will travel the selected route to the waste transfer station. From there all the trash will be dumped and loaded onto extended semi-tractor trailers for shipment out of the county.

Please show your support by attending the Orange County Commissioners’ Work Session on Tuesday, September 16th at 5:30 p.m at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road (back behind the new Senior Center.) Please come, even if you will arrive late.

There are so many reasons why Eubanks Road is NOT the best place for this new facility, including:

– the opening of Morris Grove Elementary School and the school buses and families who now use this route on a daily basis;

– the future middle school and county park near Morris Grove;

– the continuing residential and business developments along Eubanks Road;

– and most importantly, the fact that the Eubanks-Rogers Road neighborhood has hosted our county’s trash facilities for the past 35 years!

If there is simply no way that you can attend the meeting on Tuesday, September 16th, please send an email to our county clerk at dbaker@co.orange.nc.us and ask her to forward your comments to each of the County Commissioners, and to include your comments in the public record.

Many of your neighbors in the Eubanks-Rogers Road have been working very hard to prevent our area from becoming the permanent trash center for the county. Please give them your support at this critical time in the decision making process. For more info about the issue, google Orange County, NC Waste Transfer Station.

I have carved out more time for civic activities of late. As part of that, I’ve thought about applying for Chapel Hill’s open position on Orange County’s Solid Waste Advisory Board. A recent shift in that Board’s leadership holds out some hope for not only a reasonable outcome on the trash transfer site but a new look at managing our county’s future waste stream in an ecological and economically sustainable fashion.

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