VA will fight NC’s plan for border landfill

The Virginian-PilotJune 17, 2013 

The following editorial ran in The Virginian-Pilot on June. 14, 2013.

A bill is moving through the N.C. General Assembly that would remove obstacles that have prevented creation of the state's largest landfill in rural Camden County, just south of Chesapeake.

Lawmakers in Raleigh apparently think so little of northeastern North Carolina that they view a giant landfill as the region's best hope for economic development. And it seems they have even less regard for their neighbors in southeastern Virginia.

A bill is moving through the N.C. General Assembly that would remove obstacles that have prevented creation of the state's largest landfill in rural Camden County, just south of Chesapeake.

The proposed landfill, near the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and the Northwest River, drew intense opposition a decade ago from residents on both sides of the state line.

Officials in Chesapeake took the matter to court over concerns that the dump – designed to take in 10,000 tons of trash a day – would harm the river, a major source of drinking water for city residents and businesses.

North Carolina lawmakers, led by then-state Sen. Marc Basnight, passed a measure in 2007 prohibiting new landfills near any wildlife refuge or waterway. The restrictions essentially shut down planning for the 1,060-acre landfill, proposed by Black Bear Disposal LLC, a subsidiary of Waste Industries.

But the current General Assembly, engaged in a frenzy of gutting common-sense regulatory protections, is moving forward with the Solid Waste Reform Act of 2013. Among other things, this "reform" would eliminate the restrictions enacted in 2007.

As The Virginian-Pilot's Jeff Sheler reported this week, it's unclear whether Waste Industries hopes to renew its efforts to build a giant landfill in Camden. But if the bill passes, the stage would be set, and officials in Chesapeake are preparing to challenge the project if it is revived.

The proposal - shortsighted from its inception - looks even more ridiculous today.

After the 2007 bill was passed, Camden officials began working on plans to create an eco-friendly corridor on U.S. 17 near the landfill site. Nearly $6 million in grants have been invested in running water and sewer lines to and building roads for an industrial park designed to attract "green" businesses.

The recession slowed progress on the industrial park, but The Pilot's Jeff Hampton reported recently that eight companies have contacted county officials about locating there, mostly in the past six months.

The corridor's potential is heightened by work under way across the state line in Chesapeake. Dominion Boulevard is being widened, and the Steel Bridge is being replaced. The project will fix one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the region and would significantly boost the appeal of Camden to companies interested in locating or expanding in Hampton Roads.

If revived, a giant landfill would quickly trash that potential – and pose a threat to Chesapeake's future, too.

Unfortunately, North Carolina's legislators are in a pellmell mindset, squandering – step by step _ the state's reputation for sound business judgment.

It's up to residents of Camden and neighboring counties, as well as the people of Hampton Roads, to ensure that Gov. Pat McCrory and lawmakers in Raleigh fully understand the consequences of what they're doing. If another fight is what they want, it will be hauled their way.

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