Shedding Light on the Horry County Solid Waste Authority

 

By Paul Gable

A bill to ban flow control of solid waste throughout the state passed the S.C. House of Representatives Wednesday. A similar bill is already underway in the Senate.

If the Senate bill also passes, a conference committee will work out a compromise version of the two bills to go before both houses. If that is successful and the governor signs off on the legislation, an interesting showdown will undoubtedly occur.

Horry County is the only local government in the state that currently monopolizes control of solid waste disposal through flow control legislation. The ordinance governing this will be declared illegal under the wording of the state legislation.

Horry County will have to take the state to court to attempt to prove the new bill equates to a “taking” by the state of county property. The “taking” litigation amounts to the civil version of an ex post facto law.

A huge waste of taxpayer money in attorney fees, as the state and county fight it out in court, will result. However, for the first time since it was organized in 1990, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority will have to answer questions about its operations in a public venue.

Why can the Greenville County public landfill successfully compete against two private corporation landfills while the SWA claims it needs a monopoly on garbage generated within this county?

Why does the SWA constantly claim to worry about potential liability, if Horry County’s garbage is disposed in a privately owned landfill, while exactly that is occurring with garbage generated in every other county in the state? Don’t the other 45 counties worry about potential liability?

Over 10 years ago, I posed these types of questions to Marcia Papin, Solid Waste Disposal Manager for Greenville County. She runs the public Greenville County landfill.

Papin did not comment on SWA claims and requirements directly, but she did comment about competing against private corporations, “If you can’t compete against the big boys in the open market, you don’t deserve to be in business.”

Why can’t that be the case in Horry County? Does the SWA deserve to be in business?

The Greenville County public landfill and other county operated solid waste operations are operated as a department in the county’s Public Works division.

It is totally unclear how the SWA operates. It is registered as a private, non-profit corporation with the S.C. Secretary of State, but its budget is included as part of the overall Horry County budget.

The publicly appointed (by Horry County Council) SWA board of directors provides minimal oversight of the agency, in my opinion, and county council routinely approves the SWA budget with little to no scrutiny.

In an ongoing federal lawsuit challenging the county’s flow control ordinance, the SWA describes itself, in court documents, as a private corporation which owns the Hwy 90 landfill, a recycling facility and other property.

Yet, every time the SWA is referred to in public, it is called a public landfill owned by the citizens of Horry County. It can’t be both and it will be interesting to see what it is determined to be in court.

If it is indeed a private corporation, does the county council ordinance legislating flow control in the county, passed at the urging of the SWA, amount to collusion between the county and the SWA at the expense of other private waste haulers and landfills?

A special meeting of the board yesterday devoted to board transparency it was reported that SWA officials contended the SWA has nothing to hide and wants to be transparent in its operations.

I can recall one instance, several years ago, where the SWA board voted to amend a contract with a private hauler that was already in its third year of existence. After discussing the details of the amendment in executive session, the board voted to approve the amendment in open session, but refused to provide a copy or the details of the amendment, even when specifically asked. Transparency?

For several years, the SWA provided approximately $500,000 per year for a joint project with Clemson University scientists in which it was attempted to develop organic waste eating bacteria to extend the life of municipal solid waste landfills. The project was announced publicly among much fanfare. SWA board members would only say in public how well the experiments were going in the laboratory. Then, word about the project ceased.

It was only sometime later that one SWA board member, speaking confidentially, told me the “bugs died” when it was attempted to put them in an outside environment similar to a municipal solid waste landfill. The demise of the project and the reasons were never discussed openly at a board meeting. Nice idea, bad result, no transparency.

SWA board members are not paid a salary. However, several years ago, it was discovered, through FOIA requests, that board members received tens of thousands of dollars in one year as expense and travel reimbursement for “official business”. Forced transparency.

Over the years, there has been too much propaganda and too little fact provided to the public about the SWA and its actions. It is well past time for that to change!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment