Committee trudging through trash debate

A smaller and leaderless citizens committee is taking steps to solve York County's solid waste disposal problems.

Earlier this fall, the county council discussed the group's slow progress and whether the committee should be dissolved. In early November, only three committee members attended a scheduled meeting. But with seven members at Tuesday's meeting, the group listened to a presentation on the current controversial solid waste plan adopted by the County Council in February. Committee members then started listing what issues to tackle. The group suggested exploring residential trash options and how to recycle more of its waste. In December, they'll prioritize and dive deeper into the trash debate.

York County transports about 400 tons of residential trash a day to a Richland County landfill that's expected to reach capacity in eight years.

Committee member John McGill from York Technical College was worried about what the county will do when the current contract ends in 2010 or if landfill officials decide to close off trash from outside Richland.

He suggested looking into building a facility here -- whether it's a landfill or an alternative such as a waste-to-energy facility.

Another item on the list to ponder is when a new construction and debris landfill will be needed in the county. These landfills only accept construction debris such as wood and bricks.

The county has three facilities, and the current plan doesn't call for a new one until 2013.

Sorting trash for recyclable materials and expanding the recycling programs in the county are other items that topped the committee's list to focus on. Many of the original 14 community members represented schools or chambers of commerce. They weren't necessarily solid waste experts. Rather, they were chosen to offer a citizens' perspective, York County Manager Jim Baker said. Community members are better able to say what their neighbors could afford and what they don't want in the community than elected officials, he said. Four committee members bowed out before this week's meeting, citing time constraints and other conflicts, Assistant County Manager Anna Hubbard Wilson said.

Baker expects the group to progress more quickly after it starts meeting twice a month in January. A recommendation for the County Council might be ready in May. The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11.