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Playing catch up on the Chatham County landfill issue

By George Lankford
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2011

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Moncure, NC - I sincerely apologize for the errors in my post on Monday, December 27. In order to make a sound and informed decision we must have accurate information.

I am a member of a group of concerned citizens who live here in Chatham County. Many of us live in close proximity to the sites being considered for a landfill so we have a lot at stake in the recommendations that SWAC makes and in the decisions of the County Commissioners. The members of our group have been working very hard to educate ourselves about this issue but none of us are experts. We feel that the SWAC is already a number of steps ahead of us and seems to be on an aggressive time line so we are trying to play catch-up .

Here are responses intended to clarify information in my first post:

1. Chatham County does not generate less than 50 tons of trash per day (TPD) (approx. 18,000 tons per year). (The unincorporated, "rural" regions of Chatham County generate nearly this amount of waste, without including the waste generated by the municipalities -- such as Pittsboro, Siler City, etc. -- and business waste.

According to the Feasibility Study the amount of trash generated by Chatham County can be broken down as: "County- Controlled" (trash taken to the 12 County Collection sites): approx. 30 tons/day and "Other In-County Waste" (trash from municipalities, commercial and industrial businesses): approx. 85 tons/day. Therefore, the total "All-County Waste" is approx. 115 tons/day. The 50 tons per day figure I quoted is the amount of “County-Controlled†trash projected for the year 2014, the proposed opening of the landfill from the Feasibility Study (page 4).

2. Chatham County generated over 100 tons per day (TPD) (approx. 42,000 tons per year) in 2008.

According to the County Solid Waste Disposal Reports from the NC Division of Waste Management the calculated MSW

m/sw/reports the calculated MSW
(Municipal Solid Waste) tonnage managed by Chatham County decreased by nearly 20
percent from 2007 to 2009. (2006-2007 (40,351 t/yr), 2007-2008 –(38,544 t/yr),
2008-2009 –(32,619 t/yr).

4. I can't find any information saying that the county has decided how big the
landfill will be yet. (despite Preserve Chatham County saying that the county is
"rapidly moving forward with deciding on a location for a Regional landfill -
that's 500 tons of trash/day!")

When I read the Feasibility study, the overwhelming take-away message I get is:
the larger the landfill, the more economically viable it will be (see Figures
2-4 and 7). In the Conclusions section, it appears that all of the landfill
options except for the County Controlled waste option are most favored. Since
the County has not yet eliminated the regional landfill option, I feel that
people should be aware that this option is still on the table and could become a

5. The feasibility study did NOT "[propose] a 500-ton per day landfill as the minimum needed to be economically viable." Instead, the study evaluated a number of possibilities, including the "do-nothing" option (called Option 1).

If the Do Nothing option (option #1 in the Feasibility Study) is truly a viable
option, then why is the county moving forward with the site selection
process?This doesn’t make sense to me. The possible landfill sites were
identified and then narrowed from 29 sites to 9 sites in a very short amount of
time. This fact, coupled with the fact that residents in close proximity to the
potential landfill sites were unaware of the potential for a landfill until very
recently is very disturbing and upsetting.

6. The feasibility study also evaluated alternatives to a landfill such as waste
incineration, waste handling, and waste conversion. The study says that to take
advantage of these alternatives a landfill would still need to be built, and
many of the possible options would require much more trash to be shipped in to
be feasible, and many of the possible options would likely reduce our air
The Feasibility Study was conducted by an engineering firm, Richardson Smith
Gardner and Associates. Inc. (, that specializes in
landfills and does not claim to have any expertise in alternatives to landfills.
Why was a consultant that specializes in building landfills selected to give
recommendations instead of a consultant who specializes in alternative methods
for solid waste management/disposal? I feel that the alternatives to a landfill
were not given equal consideration.

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Playing catch up on the Chatham County landfill issue

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