By Paul Gable
The Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s latest plan to extend operations at the Hwy 90 landfill until approximately 2050 appears to have sprung out of nowhere in recent months for no apparent reason.
At a recent board meeting, SWA Executive Director Danny Knight told board members the latest expansion plan was moving forward because it was the authority’s responsibility to maximize the use of available land at the Hwy 90 site for waste disposal.
Actually, that statement runs counter to the ordinance that established the SWA in December 1990. Ordinance 60-90 states there is a need to develop an acceptable alternative for solid waste disposal and to reduce the amount of tonnage disposed in sanitary landfills in Horry County. It further states the high water table and other geologic characteristics in Horry County “make utilization and expansion of the existing landfill and development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”
Through the years since the authority’s opening in 1992, that section of the ordinance has been forgotten or ignored by a succession of SWA staff and board members.
The timeline set by the SWA for what is being called “Piggyback Expansion Phase III” hopes for a permit for the expansion to be issued by SCDHEC in June 2019 even though Piggyback Phase II is only now under construction and Phase III will not be needed until 2040 at projected disposal rates.
Why the rush? Shouldn’t the SWA staff and board members be seeking alternative means of disposal of the county’s solid waste?
The answer to the first question is not available to the public and not known by county council members, only a few of whom have recently become aware of these expansion plans.
The answer to the second question is “Yes” only if the SWA board and staff believe it is their responsibility to obey the law that established the authority in the first place. To date that has not been the case.
And what of the cost? It was only 18 months ago that the SWA projected a $33 million shortfall in needed funds by 2024 unless it received a nearly 50% increase in tipping fees. County council approved an immediate $7 per ton increase with additional $1 per year increases as the SWA needs them.
Being a component unit of county government, if the SWA falls short of funds, especially the closure and post-closure costs of the ever increasing landfill complex off Hwy 90, county council will have no choice but to spend taxpayer dollars to bail it out at the expense of other county services.
What is currently being planned at the SWA is important to current and future residents and taxpayers of Horry County.
It is time they demanded a full review of not only current, but also future solid waste disposal needs for Horry County, including a full review of alternatives to continued burial of solid waste at the Hwy 90 landfill.