Powerful, out-of-state waste companies look at landfills in South Carolina as cheap places to bury garbage, and make money.
But a vast majority of South Carolinians look at those mountains of out-of-state waste piling up within their borders as intrusive eyesores.
So it is perplexing that a bill that would make it even easier for companies to send waste into the state, and effectively undermine existing public landfills, is making progress in the Legislature.
At least now counties have some control over where waste is dumped within their respective jurisdictions. They can require, for example, that waste be taken to public landfills. Those landfills are primarily in business to provide a place for local waste at reasonable prices. They serve to keep more land from being used as dump sites.
But if this bill becomes law, counties would be stripped of the authority to dictate which landfills companies can use to deposit garbage that comes from outside of their boundaries. Waste haulers, often required to dump out-of-jurisdiction trash at county-owned landfills, could opt to dump their waste at any landfill.
The bill would encourage the expanded use of private landfills, at the expense of public facilities. The experience of several rural counties around the state suggests that the public isn’t well served by a loss of public facilities. In some instances, private operators have been aggressive in their efforts to take in more and more waste from wherever they can (not just locally) and pile it higher and higher to make more and more money.
In Marlboro County, residents have fought to stop a mega dump that threatened to become the largest in the nation — thousands of acres piled 300 feet deep.
Six neighbors of the Lee County landfill won a $2.3 million court verdict last year, when a federal jury agreed that powerful odors from that dump had escaped the site and affected nearby residents. It is a major dumping site for out-of-state waste.
It’s disappointing that the House of Representatives approved the bill with hardly any debate. And now it has passed out of committee in the Senate and is on the calendar for consideration by the full Senate. A strong effort, reportedly backed by a gaggle of lobbyists, is pushing for it to be given priority status.
If the Senate follows the House’s lead, it would be ignoring constituents’ wishes. A poll by the South Carolina Association of Counties found that 88.2 percent oppose the idea of taking out-of-state waste.
By all appearances, the bill would be a boon for the out-of-state waste industry, and a slap at local governments that represent the residents of South Carolina.
But then the waste industry is a hard-hitting one with deep pockets and high-powered lobbyists.
The Association of Counties, a number of conservation groups, and 24 individual counties are opposing this legislation.
The Senate should not bow to pressure from the wealthy waste industry to the detriment of the states’ counties and their residents.
It’s not in South Carolina’s interest to become a magnet for out-of-state garbage.
It’s a growth industry the state can do without.