Landfill permit change makes economic sense

Jan 27, 2013

The ongoing comment period about accepting out-of-county waste at Haywood County’s lone landfill in White Oak is one that has drawn little response. At a public hearing conducted by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, only four people spoke out.

The hearing and final decision by the state agency is necessary to modify a 1993 landfill operating permit issued to Haywood County. The original permit stipulated that only solid waste generated in Haywood could be buried at the site. If the permit is modified as requested, solid waste from western North Carolina counties could also be accepted.

Santek Environmental, which has a contract with Haywood County to manage the landfill, has agreed to take over all landfill expansion, closure and post closure costs associated with the facility once the tonnage rate exceeds 325 tons a day. The current tonnage from Haywood only is about 175 tons a day, and to reach the target number, more waste is needed.

While it seems hard to imagine, Santek officials guarantee they can make the county’s landfill last just as long, even with more garbage, by using different compaction methods and use more specialized equipment. The extra money generated by burying more tonnage will offset both operational and closure costs.

To back up those claims, the contract guarantees that Santek will take care of all solid waste generated in Haywood County for the next 30 years, or longer if the facility remains open beyond that point.

The private-public partnership model for the landfill was researched for more than a year, and there were months of extensive negotiating before the contract was inked in 2011.

The current management contract will change into an expanded management contract once the 325 ton-a-day limit is reached

For Haywood County residents, that will mean the $127,000 monthly fee will go away, and the county will pay the same charge as other counties, an expected $22.50 a ton. That will not only reduce the county’s monthly costs by $15,000 or so, but it will provide for a 5 percent cut of all revenues generated.

There will be an added perk for commercial customers locally when their rate drops from more than $50 a ton to the standard charged to others.

Should the expanded management triggers not be reached — or if something happens to derail the permit modification now being considered at the state level — Haywood County taxpayers need to be prepared to start salting away money almost immediately to handle future landfill expansion and closure costs. During discussions two years ago, this was estimated at an annual household fee of $150 as opposed to the $92 charged currently.

While the idea of bringing in out-of-county garbage may sound like a bad idea, the facts show it isn’t. Nor is it a new idea. Haywood County leaders thoroughly vetted the idea before setting the course, and county residents had ample opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

Then, as now, there are relatively few who seem very interested, let alone opposed to the idea. The plan is a good one and should be implemented.