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County Council, July 16

No resolution of problems at Bees Ferry landfill
Old incinerator site to be sold
Warwick Jones

The meeting of the Recycling/Solid Waste (R/SW) Committee took up most of yesterday’s proceedings. Although the Finance Committee agenda had 8 items, there was little discussion and all items were passed quickly and unanimously.

There were some differences between R/SW Committee members, but much of the meeting was taken up with explanations, largely in relation to the Bees Ferry landfill. And despite the lengthy discussion, it was not resolved last night. The problem is that the County’s composting is standing in the way of development of another waste disposal cell. The composting operation needs to be moved. The land fill is also close to a new residential development and the buffer between it and the land fill should be increased. The simplest solution would be to buy land adjacent to the land fill, move the composting to part of the acquired land, and create a large buffer between the landfill and the residential development with the remainder of the acquired land. This is what staff suggested, noting that the acquisition of 80 acres would cost the County $10 million. They also said that a zoning change by the City of Charleston would be necessary.

Before the Committee had a chance to discuss the proposal, Council Chairman Summey, made it moot, He said that he and others had discussed the issue with Mayor Riley and he indicated that there would be close to no chance that the City would agree to a zoning change. Chairman Summey then went on to say that he would like staff to consider buying adjoining land to create a large buffer between the land fill and the residential development.

The was not much support for the staff proposal and some opposition to the suggestion that the County buy land to increase the buffer from its present 100’ to 300’. Why was the cost of the property now $10 million, much more than when the suggestion was first considered? Why does the County need to increase the buffer? If it is to be increased, let the developer or City buy it.

Committee member Sass addressed the first question. The land, in a sense, was much different now that that of two years ago. Two years ago, the land owner offered a 900’ buffer for about $6 million or so. The developer, (who is presumably buying the land from the owner) has since gone through the long approval, planning and permitting stages, and the land was now ready for development. The developer had incurred considerable expense in the process and the land was that much more valuable. Council Chair Summey weighed in on the second question. The fact that the landfill was there before the residential developments were planned would not make a difference. The land fill could constitute a nuisance to the residential property owners. He opined that recent court cases indicated that the County would remain responsible for creating a significant buffer.

Although Council member Pryor thought that a motion was not necessary, Council Chair Summey moved that staff consider the option of the County buying land to create a 300’ buffer. It was passed by the R/SW Committee with only Committee member Pryor in opposition. (The motion was to buy 300’ from the developer though as the existing buffer is 100’, we would have thought the purchase of 200’ was sufficient.)

Staff also told the R/SW Committee that Sunoco was terminating its agreement to operate the Romney Street recycling facility at the end of this month. The company cited unprofitable operations caused by low prices for the recycled products. Staff did not disclose exactly what would happen at the end of the month but assured the Committee that it had made arrangements for the disposal of the recyclable collections.

Staff and the County’s consultant reported that progress continued for the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) on the Palmetto Commerce Parkway. The Facility would handle all of the 36,000 tons of recyclable material presently being collected and some. It would be a “single stream” process. The site is also large enough to house a “mixed waste” process if Council wished to add it or convert the single stream system. Council recently considered a “mixed waste” facility but decided against it because of uncertainty as to its viability. There are only a few “mixed waste” plants in the country and some debate as to their viability.

As construction will take some 18 months and design has not yet been completed, the completion of the new MRF seems at least 2 years away.

Staff also told the Committee that preparations for the sale of closed incinerator at Shipyard Creek site in North Charleston was complete. Sealed bids are now to be sought.

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