Managing solid waste should stay a local issue

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Managing solid waste should stay a local issue

Published Monday, February 18, 2013   |  542 Words  |  

Lawmakers tend to cause trouble when they impose one-size-fits-all solutions from Columbia.

So it is with a bill to prevent counties from requiring trash to be hauled to a specific location.

Making sure trash is hauled away in a safe and timely manner as efficiently as possible is a public health issue and one that falls to local governments.

Local taxes pay for it; local officials should control how it is accomplished.

The bill originated from a situation in Horry County. The county owns a landfill and requires haulers to take trash there. The county also prohibits waste generated in other states from being dumped there.

A private landfill owner objected.

The bill's supporters say it creates more competition for trash disposal, a big-money operation no matter who's providing the service.

But in Beaufort County, there is no county-owned landfill; in fact, there is no landfill at all. Hickory Hill Landfill in Jasper County is owned and operated by Waste Management Inc.

Controlling and consolidating waste before it goes to the landfill gives Beaufort County an important negotiating tool with Waste Management.

Without volume control, the county loses that bargaining chip. It also hurts the possibility of the county's building a large waste transfer facility, where trash could be stored before being hauled to a landfill located farther away. The Hickory Hill facility is expected to be at capacity by 2016. Again, greater volume would allow the county to negotiate a lower per unit price for dumping.

"In areas where there is no competition, like Beaufort County, the bill protects the monopolies," said Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton, an immediate past chairman of Beaufort County Council. "(Letting counties have a say in where trash goes) promotes competition in Beaufort County rather than lessening it."

County officials point out that county residents already pay more in local property taxes for trash hauling than residents of other counties.

We pay $29 per resident to haul trash to Hickory Hill, says Jim Minor, the county's solid waste manager. That doesn't include additional fees charged to residents in some municipalities or fees paid by residents to private trash haulers. In most other counties, residents pay $25 to $20.

Rep. Andy Patrick says, "Let's get government out of the busness of dealing with trash and let the free market work."

That might be all right if we weren't talking about a public health issue, if the state didn't require local governments to reduce solid waste volume through recycling or if landfills could be built just anywhere, with no worries about the environment, neighboring residents or South Carolina's being a dumping ground for waste from the rest of the country.

The state's Solid Waste Policy and Management Act requires local governments to "adequately plan for and provide efficient, environmentally acceptable solid waste management services and programs."

Local governments bear the responsibility for waste management. Zoning and permitting for landfills are local issues. Paying for trash hauling is a local issue.

Local governments should be allowed to come up with their own solutions withoutany unnecessary interference from Columbia.