By Paul Gable
Horry County Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to defer consideration of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s (SWA) revised Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) until at least the November 28 council fall budget workshop.
The new SWMP includes plans for a further expansion of landfill capacity at the authority’s Hwy 90 landfill, apparently in contradiction of directions contained in the county Ordinance 60-90, which 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.”
In the nearly 30 years since its creation, the SWA has consistently failed to seek alternatives for solid waste disposal and reduce the tonnage disposed in landfills in Horry County.
According to records from the S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there are nine counties in South Carolina with public landfills. Horry County disposes approximately 98% of the municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in the county into its Hwy 90 landfill. The remaining eight SC counties who own and operate landfills dispose an average of approximately 35% of the MSW generated in their respective counties into their publicly owned landfill with the remaining amount sent to private landfills for disposal.
What is cost effective and good enough for those other eight counties is, for some undefined reason, not good enough for Horry County. Why? The SWA board and staff should explain the reason in detail to county council.
Amelia Wood, a former liaison to the SWA board from a Hwy 90 citizens group, expressed several concerns with the revised plan. Wood said there was no sustainable funding source, other than tipping fees, to pay for waste diversion programs of the SWA. She pointed out the more diversion programs are successful, less money will be available to fund them because tipping fee revenue will be reduced.
Wood pointed out the SWA Technical Advisory Council, a group that is supposed to provide input for SWMP revisions, was not given information about the planned landfill expansion and she questioned the funding necessary to implement the plan over the next 20 years.
Closure and post-closure funds for the SWA are currently running in deficit with the SWA pledging use of county general fund revenue to make up the shortfall in documents filed annually with DHEC. Only county council can authorize the use of county general fund revenue and it is unclear that any authorization was given by council to the SWA to pledge county funds in this manner.
Council chairman Mark Lazarus said county staff was going to be looking into the SWMP revision for answers to questions voiced by various council members.
Council member Johnny Vaught moved to defer consideration of the SWMP until the November budget workshop to provide council members with sufficient time to read the over 600 page document.