After neighbors protested, Wake commissioners on Monday unanimously denied a request by Shotwell Landfill that would have quadrupled the amount of waste the landfill could take in during a year.
It marks the third time since 2011 commissioners have turned away expansion requests by the company.
Owners of the 133-acre landfill on Smithfield Road near Wendell wanted the limit on its daily intake of construction debris increased to 1,000 tons, increasing the pace at which the landfill would reach capacity. They also wanted approval to accept debris from beyond just Wake and Johnston counties – opening its doors to Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Nash and Orange counties.
Commissioners Matt Calabria, Jessica Holmes and Sig Hutchinson had expressed objections to the request following a Sept. 6 public hearing, but the rest of the seven-member board wanted more information on Shotwell’s effect on surrounding water supplies.
“I voted last time around to put it back on the agenda, so that we could have further discussion,” Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said Monday. “And I think I’ve talked to enough people in the last couple of weeks to understand the situation somewhat differently.”
Jonathan Quick of Clayton and Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr spoke against the request during a public comment period before the board addressed the issue.
Quick had with him a petition opposing the request, signed by about 400 neighboring residents who had concerns about odor, traffic and groundwater contamination issues at Shotwell, near the Wake-Johnston line.
The landfill is also near large tracts of open space owned by Wake County and other land owned in part by Wake County that is intended as a nature preserve. If approved, Quick said, the request would also negatively affect property values.
“The proposed expansion of Shotwell Landfill poses significant environmental, public safety and economic risks to the surrounding community while offering little economic benefit to Wake County,” Quick said.
Starr shared some of the concerns of the property owners near the facility.
“I’m very familiar with Marks Creek, the main tributary there that flows into the Neuse (River),” Starr said. “I, too, am concerned over the water quality impacts of this facility and what the expansion of this facility will mean to potentially degraded water quality of the Neuse.”
But Wake County Solid Waste Director John Roberson shared a report indicating groundwater monitoring data from Shotwell Landfill does not suggest any groundwater contamination attributable to landfill. That did little to slow Hutchinson down in making a motion to deny the request.
“While increasing capacity might make good business sense for this repeat applicant and any potential purchaser of this operation at some point in the future, from my perspective it’s bad news for the beauty, the scenic area of Wake County where thousands of people have made a life, a home and ultimately a community,” Hutchinson said in making his recommendation.
The decision triggered an audible reaction from dozens of residents in attendance, who cheered and clapped after the vote.
“We thank you for your engagement,” board Chairman James West said, directed at that crowd. “We call this good democracy.”
No one representing Shotwell Landfill spoke at Monday’s meeting.