What’ll we do to keep landfill away?

Published 12:34 am Saturday, February 12, 2011

You’ve probably seen the yard signs and bumper stickers: Say ‘no’ to dumping.

They were used several years ago to persuade members of the Conecuh County Commission not to approve a new landfill there. The effort was successful then, but times have changed.

Developers still interested in building a landfill on 5,000 acres off Ala. Hwy. 41 (think Range to Repton) have filed a new application in Conecuh County. Commissioners have set a public hearing for March 10 at Reid State, but refused to allow opponents of the landfill to be placed on the agenda of their next meeting, set for Monday.

The proposed site is north of I-65 and Hwy. 41, the exit that’s already home to Timberlands Landfill. In 2007, Conecuh Woods owner Donald W. “Jimmy” Stone Jr. said the facility would include 1,600 acres of disposal cell area. Waste would arrive by rail and truck, he said.

Opponents like my friend Ruth Harrell, who’s spent 28 years involved in public health issues, are concerned about the environmental impact not just for the region, but for the state. Ruth chairs the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, which has tackled numerous public health issues, but perhaps none bigger nor more important.

Despite assurances by developers that the proposed landfill will be built to federal environmental standards, she’s skeptical.

“There is documented mercury in the groundwater next to Timberlands Landfill,” Harrell said. “I don’t care if the liner is steel or iron. There is the potential to seep into the groundwater.”

ADEM data shows that groundwater test wells at the existing landfill have mercury levels exceeding EPA’s safe drinking water limits, she said.

Conecuh County commissioners are said to be considering approval because of the “economic benefits.” Five years ago, developers said the proposed landfill would add $267 million to the county’s general fund over 60 years. That’s an average of $4.45 million per year, and probably looks like a godsend to those tasked with balancing budgets in these difficult times.

Still, it seems like a no-brainer. Conecuh County doesn’t want this in their back yard and neither do we.

Here’s the tough question. If we don’t want landfills near us, how much are we willing to pay to have our garbage hauled away?

Harder still, what are we willing to do to reduce the amount of garbage that we leave by the street each week?

In Andalusia, where curbside pick-up for recycling is available, less than half of our residents participate. All it takes is a phone call to the recycling center (222-0862) and a green recycling bag will be delivered to your home. When you put the green bag out beside your hobo, a recycling crew will pick it up and leave you another one. We don’t even have to sort the plastics from the paper!

Yet participation hovers between 35 and 40 percent, so imagine how few outside the corporate limits make an effort to recycle.

Every place is somebody’s back yard. As citizens of the world, we should be working harder not trash ours or our neighbors’.