ST. PAULS — A need for better communication between Robeson County government and people living near the county landfill was stressed repeatedly during a community meeting Monday night about expansion plans at the waste site.
Several of the 25 people who attended the meeting asked why some didn’t receive certified letters about the plan to expand the landfill by 23.3 acres, why they aren’t informed about other aspects of the site’s operations or how they would be notified if a major problem develops. County leaders assured them that getting information to them, answering their questions and being as transparent as possible about the expansion was why the meeting was being held.
“The county wants to be a good neighbor,” Commissioner Lance Herndon said of the landfill’s operation.
Herndon suggested during the Board of Commissioners’ Nov. 6 meeting that the meeting be held. The suggestion was sparked by comments made by people who live near the landfill during a public hearing on plans to expand it by 23.3 acres.
One of the communication concerns addressed Monday was how it was not properly explained to people living around the landfill that the expansion was to be made inside the landfill’s existing boundaries.
“Everything that will happen will happen inside our landfill on land we own. Nobody’s property will be taken,” County Manager Ricky Harris said at the beginning of the meeting.
Assistant County Manager Jason King said the county was improving its website. The improvements include a calendar that gives a more complete list of meetings by county committees and boards, and community meetings and events. King took note of a suggestion by one St. Pauls resident that the website include contact information for General Assembly members who represent Robeson County.
“Some good suggestions were made,” Herndon said after the two-hour meeting.
One of them was the installation of a border fence, he said. Another was monitoring the coyote population around the landfill and initiating a trapping program when necessary. Another was better monitoring of the trucks coming in and out of the landfill.
“The meeting was a success,” Herndon said. “It was good to hear the concerns that were expressed before. This time there was a more personal aspect to the concerns. And it was good to answer the people’s questions.”
Danny Lowery, whose property abuts the landfill, asked if the county or the state government can give written assurance that the site from which dirt is being dug to cover trash in the landfill will not one day be filled with trash. Lowery’s question was prompted by the fact that at one point the county stopped taking dirt from the borrow site on the landfill’s south side and started taking it from a site on the northeast corner.
“Why did they stop digging there?” Lowery said. “Can anyone tell me there is no plan to put trash in the new borrow?”
Leonard Joyce owns Joyce Engineering, which oversees engineering aspects of the landfill.
He assured Lowery there would be no need for turning the borrow site into a trash site for decades. The existing household trash sites can be used for 40 to 50 years before they need to be capped.
“There is 30 years of life in the expansion area,” he said.
The borrow will last for 15 to 20 years, he said.
“And the county will need to ask for permission to start dumping trash there,” Joyce said.
Any plans to do so would need to be advertised, he said, and public hearings held.
“It’s a very public process,” Joyce said.
If a major problem developed at the site, residents would get alerts through the county’s CodeRED system, Harris said. It is an emergency notifications system residents can register for by going to the county’s website.
Other alerts would come using the alert notification mechanisms stipulated in the landfill’s emergency plan, said Amy Davis, a Joyce Engineering civil engineer. These mechanisms could be the local fire and police departments.
“If it’s a really major problem someone will be knocking at your doors,” Davis said.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1984 or by email at [email protected]