The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday May 21st

Rogers Road residents question Orange County landfill closing plan

Carl Purefoy didn’t know what to expect when the Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday on a closure date for the Orange County landfill.

He and his neighbors in the Rogers Road community have been disappointed before — first when the landfill was expanded in the 1980s and several times since when the closure date was extended.

“It should have been closed years ago,” he said.

But in a unanimous decision Tuesday, the board voted to close the landfill on June 30, 2013.

Purefoy, who has lived in the neighborhood adjacent to the landfill for about 45 years, said he will believe it when he sees it.

“When you’ve been disappointed for so many years, you don’t really know whether to believe them or not,” he said.

And Purefoy’s not the only one in the historically black and low-income area waiting to see the landfill actually close after 40 years.

“It’s just been changed so many times,” said David Caldwell, a longtime Rogers Road resident. “I’m very pleased with the decision, but I think I will really be happy when I see the lock on the gate.”

Orange County Manager Frank Clifton said it was time to make a decision because the landfill will reach capacity next year.

“It just makes sense to establish a date to work toward,” Clifton said.

Closing the landfill will cost the county about $3.1 million, said Gayle Wilson, county solid waste management director.

Under state regulation, the landfill must be covered with a thick plastic liner that is then topped with soil and vegetation.

“It is fairly complicated and costly to construct that liner, which is like a big Tupperware lid over the landfill,” he said.

Post-closure costs for maintenance and monitoring for at least 30 years will total a little more than $2.5 million, he said.

Wilson said the county must monitor methane gas levels from decomposing garbage and possible leakage in the groundwater.

When the garbage rots, the landfill could also sink, which would require the county to level it out to prevent ponds from forming on the liner, he said.

After the landfill closes, the county plans to ship garbage to a waste transfer station in Durham, but county commissioners want to find a long-term solution for the county’s waste.

“They want to turn it up a bit and be more deliberate in discussing and evaluating future options,” Wilson said.

He said options like converting waste into gas to power equipment could be financially risky and may be difficult to implement in Orange County.

“There is a sentiment among some county officials and other elected officials in the county that prefer and favor an approach to solve your problem locally rather than ship it elsewhere, but the means to do that are somewhat limited right now,” Wilson said.

In the meantime, a newly created task force will explore how to move forward with the Rogers-Eubanks neighborhood mitigation plan, including a possible community center and sewer hook-ups for residents.

“It’s all about the quality of life in the community,” said Robert Campbell, president of the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association. Campbell will serve on the task force with Caldwell and local government officials.

Chilton said the task force will explore how some community needs can be addressed and how they will be paid for.

“We have to know what can be done and can’t be done,” he said.

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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