Enquirer Herald

Landfill fight lands in Columbia

YORK -- Landfill issues seem to be taking up an inordinant amount of the County Council's time.

In fact the county, or at least an attorney representing it, is in Columbia today fighting an appeal at the Department of Health and Environmental Control to it's plan to expand the construction and demolition landfill it operates behind Moss Justice Center along Hwy. 374 and Connolly Road.

Mary Ellen Connolly, who has lived next to the landfill for decades is hoping to stop the expansion. She's been battling the county over the landfill for years, and has reams of DHEC records as ammunition.

"They have two full cells," Connolly said. "The county says they have 400 acres they can use. They aren't just putting it underground, they are building it up to 87 feet high."

Connolly sought help from York City Council with her appeal, she asked the council to write a letter to support her case before DHEC. Mayor Eddie Lee sent a letter instead to County Council Chairman Buddy Motz seeking answers to several questions Connolly brought up. He said he would forward any response to DHEC.

As of Monday he said he had not heard back from Motz.

In the letter Lee asks: "How large will this landfill expansion be? What will be the permissible height? What is your time frame for this project? will the landfill accept non-York County materials? Has DHEC authorized the expansion? Have neighbors in the Highway 5, 374, Langrum Branch and Connolly Road areas been afforded maximum public input? Is recycling a priority? Are you investing in a so-called 'waste-to-energy' incinerator at this locations? ... and are wells sampled on a regular basis?"

Connolly contends that of the 33 test wells around the landfill, 27 show contamination according to DHEC and four of the others are dry.

"Initially when they put this here the deal was it would be in York for five years, then it would move to Rock Hill for five years and so on around the county," Connolly said. "But that never happened and here it sits, piling up."

Connolly's neighbors are dealing not just with an unsightly mound of garbage, especially in the winter when bare trees fail to screen it from view, but also runoff from the site.

Referring to DHEC records she says the county has been repeatedly cited by the agency for failing to properly cover the land fill and prevent runoff. Over the years the runoff has filled in one of her neighbor's ponds.

"I'm not one of those NIMBY people, but we've had this a good long time," she said. "We've had it long enough, it's time for someone else to take a turn."

Meanwhile the county council is fighting other landfill projects in the county, including one on Vernsdale Road in Rock Hill, the owner of which has said he plans to recycle as much as 75 percent of the C and D waste that arrives.

"That's a revenue stream," Connolly said. "But the county doesn't recycle anything at the landfill."

Connolly was backed up by dozens of neighbors at a recent public hearing on the proposed expansion, but DHEC initially approved the expansion. Her appeal is supposed to put that on hold, but she contends the county went ahead with the expansion before the case has been settled.

"I went up in a little plane the other day and you can see it from the air, they've already started the new cell," she said.

Connolly is not optimistic about her chances with DHEC, but she said that won't stop her from fighting anyway.