By Paul Gable
The Horry County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) is preparing to request a Determination of Need from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control for permission to further expand capacity at its Highway 90 landfill.
The request, expected to be sent in next month, will begin the process to add a Phase III Piggyback landfill cell for Class 3 Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and expansion of the current Class 2 Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste landfill.
The SWA says it needs this expansion to continue serving the needs of the residents of Horry County for landfill capacity.
Included in the plans for Phase III is a proposed bridge over Sterritt Swamp and a new roadway snaking through wetlands areas on the authority’s 1187 acre tract adjacent to the current landfill site. The bridge and roadways are needed to mine approximately one million square yards of dirt on the 1187 property and haul it to the landfill for construction.
It is only 18 months ago that the SWA was literally begging Horry County Council to approve an increase in tipping fees at the Hwy 90 landfill to keep the authority solvent. The need for the increase in fees was blamed on capital expenditures associated with current Phase II Piggyback Expansion and planned Vertical Expansion for the MSW landfill.
Horry County Council approved an immediate $7 per ton increase in tipping fees for MSW with additional $1 per ton increments for seven more years and a $1 per ton increase for C&D.
The SWA landfill sits in an environmentally sensitive area surrounded by Sterritt Swamp on three sides. Its origin dates back to open, unlined garbage dumps that served the City of Conway since the 1960’s.
As the state was preparing what would become the South Carolina Solid Waste Policy Management Act of 1991, Horry County Council formed the SWA, by county ordinance 60-90, to conform with the new state law.
A hydrology report prepared in 1990 by HDR Engineering stated that no soils in Horry County were listed as fair to good for landfills. The 1990 report and several subsequent through 2001 stated the Hwy 90 landfill site was hydrologically unsuitable for a landfill due to the proximity of Sterritt Swamp.
The opening statement in Ord. 60-90 reads: “There is a need in Horry County to develop an acceptable alternative method of solid waste disposal and to reduce the tonnage of solid waste disposal in sanitary landfills due to the County’s high water table and other geologic characteristics that make utilization and expansion of the existing landfill and development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”
Instead, the Hwy 90 landfill site has been used, expanded and now planned for further expansion, literally in defiance of the county’s own ordinance.
Over the last 20 plus years, the SWA has attempted to monopolize disposal of the county’s waste streams through schemes that included user fees, generation fees, refusal to allow private industry to institute plans to dispose MSW and C&D waste outside Horry County and absolute control over county waste disposal (flow control) in 2009.
In the early 2000’s, the SWA signed an agreement with nine other counties to have the Hwy 90 landfill become the host site for a 10 county regional landfill scheme. County council finally stepped in and forced cancellation of that plan.
The process toward gaining permits for these newest proposed expansions of county waste disposal in an environmentally sensitive location will begin when the SWA submits a DON letter to SCDHEC. There will be periods of public and local government input during the process.
There already exists significant capacity at several landfills just over the county line for C&D waste and alternatives for the disposal of MSW have existed since the beginning of the SWA.
It is time to have a general discussion on long term disposal of county waste considering all alternatives rather than just attempting further expansion of a landfill that could cause significant harm to the county’s environment and economy in the future.