Orange County is applying to extend the life of its landfill, further delaying a solution for the area’s messiest problem.
The Orange County Department of Solid Waste Management is in the process of submitting a permit modification to the state that could extend the Eubanks Road landfill’s life to January 2016 from an earlier 2012 deadline.
The story so far:
- 1972: Chapel Hill purchased 80 acres on Eubanks Road in a historically black and low-income area to use as a landfill for 10 years.
- 2007: Landfill remains, and begins to reach capacity. Rogers-Eubanks Coalition to End Environmental Racism is founded, and members argue that the community shouldn’t host more waste sites. Orange County Commissioners start a contentious $490,000 search for a waste transfer station elsewhere in the county.
- 2009: As a temporary solution, commissioners vote to ship the county’s waste to the Durham transfer station in the three to five years following the landfill’s capacity being reached.
- 2012: Latest estimate for the year the landfill will reach capacity.
The modification will allow the county to steepen the side slopes of the landfill, increasing its capacity.
“The county’s goal has been to extend its capacity as long as possible in order to delay greater costs,” said Gayle Wilson, director of the solid waste management department.
“The longer we can stay in our current landfill, the better it is for our current users.”
In an effort to address Orange County’s landfill filling up, the Board of County Commissioners voted in December 2009 to divert trash temporarily through a Durham transfer station.
The plan would be an intermediate solution and exclude the historically black and low-income community that houses the landfill from hosting future solid waste facilities.
Steve Yuhasz, commissioner vice-chairman, said the extra time is still a small extension and does not change the long-term dilemma. During its last contentious search process for a trash site, the county delayed the expected fill date for the landfill several times.
“We’re still going to have to do something else with the garbage in the long run,” he said.
But the time gained by the county allows officials to delay making official arrangements with Durham.
“We have not negotiated a price or plan, but it’s an agreement in principle,” Yuhasz said. “There are technical and operational issues that we must discuss.”
Donald Long, director of solid waste management in Durham, said Orange County would be the first outside county to transfer its trash to the station.
“Right now, it’s just the city of Durham and Durham County,” Long said. “Discussion hasn’t been in depth, but last I heard is that (Orange County is) still going to send their trash here.”
Once Orange County’s trash reaches Durham, it won’t stop there. Long said the transfer station works with a private contractor who takes the trash to Sampson County’s landfill — the Uwharrie landfill in Mount Gilead.
The county has yet to hear from Chapel Hill, Carborro and Hillsborough as to whether the towns will be collaborating with the county in transferring their trash.
Letters were sent to the towns to see if they wish to similarly coordinate sending their waste to Durham and if they want to discuss what that long-term relationship would be. The county expects replies on Feb. 15.
For Wilson, discussion of long-term solutions for waste management has not come soon enough.
“I really think we’ll get some indication of the direction we’ll take from the towns’ response,” he said.
“The county is prepared to proceed alone, but is eager to extend partnership with the jurisdictions.”
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