City considers reopening White Street Landfill

The White Street Landfill, located in Northeast Greensboro, was closed over five years ago to save residents from odor, traffic and buzzards. Met with community opposition, the Greensboro City Council has recently proposed reopening the landfill in order to save money.

In 2006, after years of lawsuits and protests from residents, the landfill closed its facilities to household trash.

Currently, such trash is driven to the Uwharrie Landfill in Montgomery County, costing the city an extra $8 million a year. The city’s contract with Uwharrie Landfill is set to expire this summer, leaving the Council to debate what steps to take next.

Despite the utilization of numerous trash consultants and years of debate, the Council still has not declared exactly how much the city could save by reopening the landfill, according to the News & Record. Estimates range from $1.5 million to $15 million.

Last March, the city accepted proposals to “determine the best course of action for waste management for the City and surrounding communities,” according to the Official City of Greensboro website. Seven private companies submitted their proposals, but none were selected.

On March 8, the city will collect a second round of bids from trash companies, all revolving around the reopening of the White Street Landfill.

The state of North Carolina does not allow the creation of new landfills. According to former Mayor Keith Holliday, this means that the Council is receiving pressure from the waste industry to use the city’s existing and permitted landfill, reports the News & Record.

Many worry that if the landfill reopens, it could limit the city’s expansion.

“All the growth is going east,” said Ralph Johnson, president of the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro. “The problem is that if you reopen the landfill, companies will be hesitant in terms of setting up business.”

The benefits of reopening the landfill have been under debate since the decision was made to close it in 2001.

“The whole argument, in terms of reopening (the landfill), has been how to save most residents of the city money on the backs of a few people,” said Professor of Economics Bob Williams. “That’s just not fair.”

Other community members see the benefits of reopening the landfill. In 2008, former Councilman Mike Barber began promoting the landfill’s reopening.

“I am not an expert on waste disposal,” said Barber, according to the News & Record. “But I do have a responsibility, when I observe a horrible misuse of our citizens’ money, to shine a light.”

With the current economy and state budget cuts, cost effectiveness has become a predominant topic among the Council.

“I think closing the White Street Landfill is a very poor use of public money,” said Dr. G. Donald Jud, professor emeritus and research fellow in the Office of Business and Economics Research at the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNCG in an e-mail interview. “The costs greatly exceed the benefits. If you drive around the White Street neighborhood as I have, I don’t think you will find 100 homes that are damaged by the landfill. “

Residents living in the area who were once affected by the landfill express a different opinion.

“At night, the smell would get real bad when the wind would blow a certain way,” said five-year resident Harold Bethea.

Bethea said that he would move if the landfill was reopened.

Betty Little has spent over 50 years in her house on Nealtown Road, less than a mile from the landfill’s entrance.

“It used to stink so bad — I don’t know how we made it,” said Little. “The big men are going to do what they want anyways. They just need to leave things alone.”

Currently, it seems that those in opposition are much more vocal and active. Former Councilwoman Goldie Wells urges residents to take action and contact their Council members.

“I feel that the landfill should remain closed to household trash,” said Councilman Jim Kee. “I am in support of new technology that can convert trash into energy, and I believe it will be the solution for all of Greensboro.”

The Council has considered some alternatives, but ruled out technology such as incinerators due to cost. According to the News & Record, Holliday said seeking a regional landfill would be the best solution in the long term.

“They are solving a social issue (by closing the landfill), but they are definitely not solving the environmental one,” said junior Linnea Saby. “There obviously has to be a discussion about decreasing waste.”

One alternative proposed by Williams is to charge individuals for how much trash they produce, either by weight or by volume.

“Most people just put out anything as garbage, and whatever they put out, the city just takes away,” said Williams. “It doesn’t encourage recycling.”

“We need landfills because we don’t recycle and reuse,” said junior Michelle Severance. “People need to be educated on where their waste goes and what they can do so that their waste doesn’t affect communities like those surrounding the White Street Landfill.”

With fuel costs rising, junior Dima Hanania proposes biodiesel trucks to transfer the garbage, stating that initial costs would offset themselves in the long term.

“The city using biodiesel to move garbage would also be a great, yet ironic, image-booster of Greensboro,” said Hanania.

Around Guilford, trash cans have been labeled with “landfill” stickers to raise awareness of the trash’s final destination.

“The idea is to drive home that this is not an innocuous trash can,” said Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Jim Dees. “It’s a landfill collection device.”

What will happen to the landfill in the coming months is unknown. Residents of northeast Greensboro only hope they will not be subjected to the traffic and smell once again.

A meeting will be held on March 28 at Laughlin Memorial Church to gain community opinion on the issue.

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