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No delay in landfill closure

Just when we thought the Pandora’s box that is the Orange County Landfill was finally nailed shut for good, Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton has pried it open one more time.

Mayor Chilton is proposing that we delay once again the proposed closure of the landfill, this time until 2015.

In October of last year, the Orange County Board of Commissioners declared their intent to close the landfill in 2013, seemingly ending years of debate over the mistreatment of the Rogers Road neighborhood that abuts the site.

At that same meeting, commissioners also voted unanimously to develop a plan to provide water hookups in the neighborhood and authorize the cleanup of illegal dumpsites in the community.
Chilton, however, citing both environmental and fiscal concerns, has suggested that a delay in closure until 2015 would allow time to develop a waste transfer station, possibly at the intersection of I-40 and N.C. 86. Such a station could save both Carrboro and Chapel Hill significant amounts of money while also keeping garbage trucks from having to drive to Durham to dump their garbage.

While both these goals are highly desirable, there are at least two problems with the mayor’s approach. First, the idea of locating a transfer station in Orange County is not new, and apparently no new solutions are being offered to this vexing issue. The community has talked exhaustively about how to handle our garbage.

The second problem with his idea is the math he used to support it. At last week’s board of aldermen meeting, he said that the 1 cent addition to the tax rate that would be needed to cover the cost of transporting our garbage to Durham would cost his household an “extra 350 bucks.”

We’re pretty sure the mayor’s mill village house isn’t worth $3.5 million, and that he really meant to say 35 bucks, a lot easier number to swallow for most taxpayers, and a whole lot less scary.

While we agree that we should continue our efforts to save tax dollars and mitigate the effects of hauling our garbage, the most important point to remember is that any delay just exacerbates the decades of injustice perpetrated on the Rogers Road community.
This neighborhood has been suffering in the shadow of our county’s mountain of garbage for 40 years, about 30 more than they were promised. Our community’s laudable recycling efforts have extended the “life” of the landfill again and again, leaving Rogers Road to suffer more vermin, more trash and more stench, while the rest of us save money.

If we want to save more money, then let it not be on the backs of those who have borne the burden for so many years. Mayor Chilton is right – we need to continue to look for a better option to trucking our garbage someplace else. But pursuing this option will be difficult and time consuming. Based on past experience, it seems it would take a miracle to have a transfer station in southern Orange County up and running by 2015.

A great environmental injustice has been done, is being done, to the Rogers Road neighbors. At this point, the right thing for this community to do is close this landfill with no delay.

  1. Richard Perry

    well said! And Town board decisions on this one issue will likely decide my votes for the next local election.