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A promising outcome

The county’s “punt” on solid waste – using Durham’s transfer station for three to five years while working on a new solution – is a significant and positive shift in the approach to what to do after the landfill closes.

That the commissioners added an exemption from a potential future waste facility for the community that has been host to the county’s landfill for 37 years should be applauded. It is our hope that the county and the towns begin working together in earnest to upfit the infrastructure in the neighborhood and add the amenities that have long been contemplated but never realized.

The other important outcome of Tuesday night’s decision is the effort to pull together the stakeholders and start a fresh and more collaborative search for a solution.

Further, the answer to waste in the long run may be foreshadowed in the short-term decision to work with a nearby regional partner. It should be noted that Chatham County recently adopted a plan to open a new landfill by 2015.

The chief lesson to be learned from both the waste transfer station process and the earlier, failed search for an in-county site for a new landfill is that pinning our hopes on one large, comprehensive facility may not be the best approach.

The solution may involve both regional partners and smaller, more-targeted local facilities. And, as this county has proven for decades, a big part of the answer is waste reduction and recycling.

That’s why it is important for the county and the towns to get together early and often to address the issue. Top of the agenda should be the elimination of buck passing. Just because the current agreements make it the county’s problem doesn’t mean the towns bear no responsibility in what happens. And, as we saw with Hillsborough’s aggressive actions on proposed sites in its vicinity, the towns can make it difficult to find a location near where the waste is created.

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