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Solid waste to be sent to Durham when landfill closes

The Orange Country solid waste landfill will be moving to Durham.
The Orange Country solid waste landfill will be moving to Durham.

Within the next few weeks, Chapel Hill’s solid waste will no longer be in Rogers Road’s backyard.

As the June closure of the Orange County Landfill approaches, the town is preparing to ship its waste to the Durham Waste Industries transfer station.

But the transition will come at a cost — almost $700,000 more annually.

The landfill was built in the historically black and low-income Rogers Road neighborhood in 1972 with the promise that it would close after 10 years.

Now, after decades of complaints from Rogers Road residents about the negative effects of the landfill, local officials are taking the next, temporary step toward a solid waste solution.

A Chapel Hill transfer station?

Chapel Hill already spends $3.5 million annually on collecting and disposing garbage.

The extra $700,000 cost would go toward buying new, better trucks and the cost of gas, as the Durham Waste Industries transfer station is further away than the Rogers Road landfill for most of the town.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Jim Ward said the extra cost would likely be shouldered by taxpayers.

“We don’t know yet if the extra money is available in the existing budget or if it will require a tax increase,” Ward said. “We’re currently in the process of doing research to sort out those issues.”

Both Ward and Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow emphasized the temporary nature of the plan.

“This will be what we do for the next three or four years as we decide what the best option is moving forward,” Storrow said.

He said the town is considering collaborating with Carrboro to build a transfer station in Chapel Hill.

According to consultants’ estimates, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro transfer station would cost about $2.8 million to build.

“There’s community interest in that plan, and a few months ago council members visited a transfer station in Asheboro because they produce about the same amount of waste that we do,” Storrow said.

Ward said it might be a year or more before the new transfer station is finalized, and the town hopes to work with Carrboro and Orange County in the process.

County cutting costs

Though Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County have separate waste management programs, all waste currently ends up in the Orange County Landfill.

Orange County Commissioner Earl McKee said the county plans to ship its trash to the Durham Waste Disposal and Recycling Center starting in June.

“The Durham station is designed for a higher capacity than it is currently being used for, so they were willing to work with us on an agreement,” McKee said.

The tipping fee at the Durham station is $42.50 per ton— $14.50 less than the fee at the Orange County Landfill.

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But gas and other expenses would put the total cost for waste disposal at about $130,000 more than what the county currently pays annually.

Gayle Wilson, county solid waste management director, said the distance from all but one of the county’s five solid waste convenience centers to the Durham station is greater than the distance to the landfill.

But he said ongoing renovations to all five convenience centers are aimed at reducing overall costs.

“We’re changing the methodology by which we handle garbage,” Wilson said. “One part of the process is installing trash compactors, which allow you to more efficiently haul large amounts of waste.”

Orange County Manager Frank Clifton said that for Orange County residents, not much will change in terms of solid waste disposal come June.

“People who get curbside pick-up will see that keep happening, people who go to convenience centers will keep doing that,” he said. “But of course, waste disposal is an ongoing problem for the county.”

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