Flow Control Costing Citizens Money

By Paul Gable

Demanding that all solid waste generated in Horry County be disposed at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority landfill on Hwy 90 forces the citizens of Horry County to pay higher fees for the disposal of construction and demolition waste than would otherwise be the case.

This revelation came during an SWA presentation of its FY 2013 proposed budget made to Horry County Council during council’s budget retreat last week.

Despite its claims to being an independent, non-profit, public benefit corporation, as it is registered with the S.C. Secretary of State’s office, the SWA budget is included in the county budget each year.

The SWA recently announced a new construction and demolition waste recycling program. The program will apply to loads of C&D waste that includes recyclable items such as metal, plastic, cardboard, clean wood and carpets.

SWA executive director Danny Knight, the former county administrator who assumed the reins of the SWA when he retired from the county in May 2009, told council a reduction $5 per ton on the tipping fee would apply to C&D waste that includes the recyclables. This reduces the tipping fee from $26.50 to $21.50 per ton.

Council members Marion Foxworth and Gary Loftus questioned whether this reduced rate would make the SWA competitive with private landfills, such as Sandhills in Marion County.

SWA government affairs director Mike Bessant said the gate rate at the Sandhills landfill was $20 per ton, but admitted the rate could be lower on a contract basis.

County council passed an ordinance in 2009 giving the SWA a monopoly on waste disposal of all county generated waste. At the time, the argument was that disposal of waste at landfills other than the SWA exposed the county to liability issues.

If this is true, why do 45 of the 46 counties in the state allow themselves to be open to such liability? Horry County is the only county in the state with a flow control ordinance that establishes a government monopoly on garbage disposal.

What became apparent last week is the SWA needs to guarantee itself 35-40,000 tons of C&D waste per year in order to move forward with its controversial piggyback expansion of waste disposal at its Hwy 90 landfill.

Called “Mt. Trashmore” by citizens opposing the piggyback expansion, the SWA is moving forward with landfill expansion plans that would ultimately make its garbage mountain visible from the beaches along the Grand Strand. What a great tourist attraction!

Therefore, the county’s citizens are paying more for disposal of C&D waste than they would if it was subject to open market bidding. They are doing so to fund an unpopular expansion at the SWA landfill.

Why are the county’s citizens being subjected to this? Basically because they have not taken the time to educate themselves about the issues and county council is unwilling to open a discussion about them.

If this truly is a county with strong conservative beliefs and a dedication to free market capitalism, how do we allow a government mandated and controlled monopoly to exist?

This would certainly seem to run counter to everything county council chairman Tom Rice espouses on the campaign trail for the 7th Congressional District seat.

It’s past time for county council to open a no holds barred public discussion about the SWA and its operations. It’s past time to question whether there is a better, more public way to come to decisions about disposal of the county waste stream.

Greenville County operates a landfill as a department of its county public works division. The public landfill competes with two private landfills in the area. Knight told county council last week that tipping fees at the Greenville County landfill were lower than those at the SWA.

Shouldn’t the citizens of Horry County have the same opportunity?