By Stan Welch
Approximately thirty five citizens of the Cheddar area, and one from nowhere nearby, gathered at the Cheddar Fire Department Tuesday night to reiterate their long lived complaints about the Anderson Regional Landfill (ARL).
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson and District Three Councilman Ray Graham fielded complaints and concerns, while Wilson also gave a brief update on the Lee Steam Plant coal ash project and the status of the Kinder Morgan fuel spill.
The ongoing renegotiation of the landfill contract between the county and Waste Connections was the impetus for the meeting, as Wilson and Graham seek to put additional protections for the community into the contract, which Wilson reminded the crowd has not been approved yet. She explained that only two entities responded to the county’s request for bids; Waste Connections and Greenville County which operates the Twin Chimneys landfill.
Greenville County offered huge savings in the per ton cost of burying the solid waste; but as Wilson explained, there was more involved than that. “We would have to locate, acquire and construct a transfer site, at a cost of at least a million six hundred thousand dollars. In addition, there would be major increases in the mileage the various solid waste haulers would have to drive to reach Twin Chimneys.
Instead, the county undertook rigorous negotiations with Waste Connections, negotiations that resulted in a reduction in cost for disposal of approximately six dollars a ton. While the Council instructed the county administrator to produce a contract containing those terms, two other major issues were severed from the contract for separate negotiation.
Those two issues were the request by the company to increase its permitted capacity from 438,000 tons a year to 876.000.
Greg Smith, Solid Waste Director who spearheaded the negotiations, reduced that increase by half, to 657,000 tons before the matter was separated from the contract. The other issue concerns a proposed lateral expansion of the landfill, in accordance with all pertinent state and federal regulations.
When that project begins, a FIN process will be required by those state regulations. The FIN process which is underway in reference to the contract, and which insures the public an opportunity to comment and raise concerns, was the focus of the discussion; both because of its potential to shape the agreement, as well as the failure of it to shape the first contract, written almost twenty years ago.
Indeed, the course of the meeting was largely shaped by the failures of the parties to either comply with or enforce the terms of that earlier contract. Most of the issues raised were at least officially addressed in the original contract.
Clearly, their inclusion in the contractual language did little to ensure that the language would be put into action. The use of prohibited roads, and the resulting serious damage done to those inadequate roads, are clearly at the top of the list of issues and concerns.
Resident after resident, most of whom apparently live on one or the other of the roads in question, spoke about the need for redirecting the trucks, or at the very least, making significant improvements and repairs to them. The depth and nature of the roads’ foundations, as well as the depth of the paved surface, were the most common complaints.
The hours of operation were also mentioned, with a number of residents complaining that landfill operations continue well into the night. Some described those operations as twenty four/ seven in nature. Teresa Locke Morgan, a longtime opponent of the landfill, provided evidence that First Quality, a paper products producer in Anderson County, is one of the companies accessing the site after normal operating hours. She said she had witnessed a waste hauler who actually had a key to the site enter after dark.
The documentation she presented which identified the company also indicated that the arrangement for after hours access had DHEC approval.
While some of the charges were clearly supported by evidence, others were not. Claims of organized crime being involved in the solid waste industry were mainly supported by Wilson’s comment that Allied Waste, the original operator of the ARL, had often been cited as a subject of RICO federal investigations. Lib Fant, a resident of District One and a political gadfly, alleged that several of her friends who live near the ARL have suffered cancer. She claims that the landfill is the source of those cancers.
Councilman Graham made it clear that the questions about the roads are best handled by SCDOT, and he promised to pressure them to “get busy and do their jobs”. Wilson said there is no way to right the “horrible injustices” the Cheddar community has suffered, but pledged to move forward with better assurances in the future.
By Stan Welch