Waste Management addresses landfill project, touts benefits

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By Chris Sardelli

Most of the major players in a controversial landfill project have become well known over the last few weeks, though a new voice added to the mix this week.

One day before Griffin Brothers Enterprises, owners of Mining Road Landfill near S.C. 903, withdrew an application to expand their property to include a Class 3 solid waste landfill, a representative from Waste Management weighed in on the project. 

Randall Essick of Waste Management, a Houston-based waste firm, commented Wednesday on the proposed landfill and the uproar from the surrounding community. 

As director of government affairs and business development for Waste Management, Essick has been working closely with the Griffins as partners throughout the landfill expansion process. Despite the controversy surrounding the landfill, Essick defends the project and what he believes it could bring to Lancaster County. 

“We felt it was a great opportunity to partner with great individuals like the Griffin Brothers and bring something beneficial to the county,” Essick said. “This would be a huge investment for the county, that could bring about $20 million.”

He said construction of the landfill could bring about 50 temporary jobs to the county, while the landfill itself could establish between 15 and 20 permanent jobs. 

“There’s a lot of misconceptions right now,” Essick added. “We hope to show the citizens what the benefits are to the county.”

Big questions

The two biggest problems residents have with the landfill are: How was it allowed to move here and how much trash would actually be allowed at the site?

Officials with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control told residents last week that the proposed landfill is actually the relocation of an existing landfill from Spartanburg. According to DHEC regulations, an existing landfill can replace itself within a

75-mile radius once during its lifetime. 

As part of the regulations, as long as the 75-mile radius touches any part of another county, the landfill can be relocated in any part of that county, which is the case with Waste Management attempting to move the Palmetto Landfill from Spartanburg to Lancaster.

After hearing the news, many residents wondered if Waste Management skirted the required landfill regulations by going through the relocation process. By relocating an existing landfill, Essick said his company does not have to prove that the county needs the landfill. 

“With the relocation process, we can replicate it (the landfill) once, without a demonstration of need, which is something that says you can only have so many landfills in a geographical area,” he said. “This means we have the right to replace the Palmetto Landfill within 75 miles,” he said. “But we still have to go through all the permitting process as required by DHEC.”

When asked if the landfill issue would’ve been immediately denied if Waste Management had applied for a new landfill at the site, Essick said yes, a new landfill would not have been allowed.

“This is because if there are more than two landfills within the 75-mile radius, then we couldn’t add another landfill,” he said. 

Residents also began to worry after seeing how much trash is permitted at the Palmetto Landfill. 

According to DHEC’s Solid Waste Management annual report for fiscal year 2009, which reported data from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, the Palmetto Landfill, classified as a Class 3 solid waste landfill, is permitted to dispose of 1.2 million tons of trash per year. It disposed of 474,882 tons in fiscal year 2009. 

At the time, the remaining life of the facility was between one and three years, depending on the amount of trash disposed there each year. 

In comparison, the Mining Road Landfill, which is now a Class 2 construction and demolition landfill, is permitted to dispose of 200,000 tons of trash per year, according to the DHEC report. 

In fiscal year 2009, the landfill only disposed of 29,658 tons of trash. Its estimated lifespan at the time was 30 years. 

Despite the backlash over the possibility of a landfill moving into the county that could be allowed to dispose of about six times as much trash, Essick said people are confusing the two landfills. 

“These projects are just apples and oranges,” he said. “The Lancaster landfill would be a small regional facility. It would be about 50 to 60 percent of the size of the other one in size, shape, tonnage and height.”

“This is a small project and would be focused more on the area of Lancaster County,” he said. 

He also cited a host agreement between Waste Management and the county that limits trash that can be disposed at the landfill. 

If the solid waste landfill were approved and eventually opened in this county, he said its tonnage limit would be about 750,000 tons a year. 

Essick said this number is just an estimate his company has been using, but one that isn’t included in official documents. 

“I don’t know if 750,000 is stated anywhere in writing,” he said. “That’s where we’ve not done a good job of helping people understand the project.”

If the Palmetto Landfill were to relocate, then Essick said that landfill’s permitted disposal rate would technically transfer with it, allowing a maximum of 1.2 million tons of trash a year. 

“But a lot of facilities have permitted capacity above what they use,” he said. 

 Essick and other Waste Management officials are now discussing ways to show more information about the project to county residents.