Solid waste hearing is Wednesday

By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 12, 2013
Photo by: DeeAnna Haney A county worker helps unload some of the county's trash in this picture taken a year ago, shortly after Santek took over operations at the White Oak landfill.

A public hearing will be held Wednesday on expanding the amount of waste allowed in the White Oak Landfill, as well as where it comes from.

At present, the 1993 landfill permit stipulates that only solid waste from Haywood County is allowed, but the permit modification being requested will allow trash to be accepted from across Western North Carolina.

A 2011 agreement between the county and Santek Environmental laid the groundwork for the permit modification, which must be approved by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The modification, if granted, will allow up to 146,000 tons of waste per year, up from the current 79,000, as well the facility’s use for waste from nearby counties.

In the public/private partnership agreement inked 15 months ago, the county turned over the landfill management to Santek, which would, in return, provide needed upgrades at the site and handle the cost of all future expansion. Perhaps most significantly, Santek will absorb the estimated $16 to $20 million post-closure costs, something commissioners said was an unfunded liability for county taxpayers.

The agreement stipulated county support for the permit modification and contained specific language guaranteeing another 30 years of use, even at the increased tonnage rates.

At the time the agreement was signed, county officials estimated taxpayers would realize a $60 million savings through the deal, not to mention the increased rates that would be needed.

Haywood County Solid Waste Director Stephen King has worked closely with Santek and the state regulatory officials on the permit modification. He said the permit modification dovetails the provisions in the 2011 agreement, and continues the provision that no hazardous waste is allowed in the landfill.

If the permit is changed, King estimates it will take six months or so to reach the 325 tons a year mark. At that point, the county shifts from paying $127,000 a month in solid waste disposal fees to Santek to paying a flat rate of $22.50 a ton. In addition, the county will receive 5 percent of the total fees collected.

Haywood County Commission Chairman Mark Swanger said the Wednesday hearing is part of the path charted 15 months ago.

“Go to the initial agreement, and it walks you right through where we’re going,” he said.

The public hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 16, at the  N. C. Cooperative Extension Haywood County Center,  at 589 Raccoon Road in Waynesville. The public comment period will end at 5 p.m. Feb. 15.