Commissioners approve landfill expansion permit

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Recycling and the Covanta Energy contract proposal resurfaced following a presentation and public hearing about the special use permit for the New Hanover County landfill expansion during the regular commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Commissioners unanimously approved the SUP after an hour of discussion.

Joe Suleyman, environmental management director, said many of the answers to questions by commissioners are not definitive at this point, including the total cost, height of the trash and the expected life of the facility.

“It’s about 45 years of waste disposal capacity,” Suleyman said, adding that it’s hard to narrow down the lifespan due to factoring in diversions like recycling.

The location of the facility is planned for two adjacent properties located about seven miles north of U.S.S. Battleship North Carolina.

Two citizens, Rob Zapple and Roger Shew, spoke in favor of the SUP, but both said the process should continue with long-term, environmental decisions following permit approval.

Chairman Woody White’s comments opposed Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr.’s statements supporting the Covanta contract and the timing of the decision.

“This is not a crisis,” White said.

He recommended county staff look into recycling, mining technologies and methane gas collection.

“Burning trash has proven not to be the way to go,” White said.

He said the county is not on to a secret technology and continuing to pump money into a failing enterprise is the wrong way to spend taxpayer dollars.

When Vice Chairwoman Beth Dawson asked Suleyman about gas collection systems and the county’s current process of removing hazardous waste from trash heading into the landfill, he said the county is a couple of months away from opening a hazardous waste facility, which would be open six days per week. The county currently holds hazardous waste events during which community members can dump waste, but the rest is likely ending up in the landfill. 

As for gas collection, another study would need to be conducted next year, followed by a presentation to the board.

“It’s going to happen,” Suleyman said. “It’s just a matter of how.”

The decision by the board on legislation regarding health and human services agency organization and governance will be postponed until mid-June, when the board is presented a staff recommendation during a work session.

Commissioner Brian Berger was the only dissenting vote for the motion to move forward with the plan.

The two options on the table include standalone health and social services departments or a single, consolidated human services agency.

Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti was present at the beginning of the meeting as one of three local municipality heads accepting a $100,000 check from Commissioner Thomas Wolfe on behalf of the ABC board to be used for school safety funding.


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