Eubanks Road off the preferred list (for now)

The Board of County Comissioners finally has seen fit to not included Eubanks Road in the narrowed list of proposed sites for the transfer station. While it ain't over till it's over, this is most welcome news. It looks like the BOCC has made strides in redemption by coming down this time for social and environmental justice.

The fight that the Rogers/Eubanks road community has waged for their neighborhood now has victory in their sights and with that victory will come a victory for the soul of Orange County. This has been a struggle that has taken decades.

Special kudos go to Reverend Robert Campbell and Neloa Jones for showing the perseverance and fortitude to make their case time and time again and lead their community against the odds. It proves that community activism and participation can make a real difference and overcome what at times seem like a never-ending series of obstacles.

However, vigilance is still required.




Dave, you are oh so right that vigilance is required.

If Eubanks is dead there remain many points about the process to ponder:

1.  Was this finally triumph of racial justice or a case of white development finally coming to the Rogers Rd area to force change in direction

2.   How high will the costs be in taxes will the county pay for this decision?

3.   Will the delay in making a decision on waste management cause the present landfill to exceed capacity as we wait on the transfer station to be finally built?   Commissioner Gordon is correct in trying to convey a sense of urgency here

4.  What is the merit of not handling Orange County waste in our own county with a new landfill?

5.   How have our elected officials served us?  Not just the BOCC but CH/Carrboro... Have they consistently told us about hard choices we have to make?  Have they told us consistently where they stand on waste management?   Have we been told consistently about the costs and the hazards?

This type decision is not about lease laws or dog pooh on our lawns but are the fundamental type decisions we elect officials to make. I admire their service and realize they want to make the "right " decision.  But I would like to hear and see more of statements from them that they will make the tough decisions even if they risk losing the next election.  We could use more of that type leadership from the top down.

One of the great things in this county is that we have such an active and vocal electorate.  It is also a curse at times because we all pay in tax dollars and other consequences for numerous delays to much-needed projects.  In the case of decisions like waste management our leaders sometimes delay potentially unpopular decisions until they are forced to act.  The transfer station on Eubanks road almost became that type of decision.  Now the folks on Highway 54 suddenly have the transfer station at their back door.

The fact is we will have trash.  How we handle our waste is a tough but necessary decision that has to be made and soon.

Addressing  your points:

1) From my viewpoint during this process, it was the pressure by the neighborhood, and the awaking to the problem of the wider community that helped turn this around. The pivotal moment, in my opinion, was the powerful 5 minute logical and even tempered presentation to the all governments meeting by Neloa Jones that highlighted the sordid local governmental history and related impacts to the community in no uncertain terms. When you add that the new support of the Orange County Democrats and the filing of an extremely well documented DOJ environment justice complaint it became clear that the BOCC had to act.

2 , 3, 4, 5) When one looks back on the history of the landfill, it becomes clear that on this issue there has been a failure of leadership by all the OC governments.  There is no doubt that this is a tough problem, that has been made worse by a failure to really face and resolve the issue in at least the past 12 years.  One can go back to failure to site a new landfill in '96, to the passing of the torch to the BOCC about 6 years ago, to the failure and procrastination of the BOCC to act until the "quick" solution of a transfer station seemed to become the only viable alternative. And they even failed until recently to create a real process to chose a transfer station site.  Until this last go around Eubanks has always been the quick and easy political solution, on the basis that the protest of the community would would not be widely noticed.  Thankfully that has been turned around.

I believe that counties should take care of their own trash. The transfer station should be a temporary solution and the BOCC should be looking ahead to a new dump.  That is probably unlikely.  

In addition there is no doubt that there is a cost to the tax payer for the past failures of leadership.  However that in no way justified the continued dumping of trash on the historic Rogers/Eubanks Roads neighborhood.  36 years was enough.

Could anyone provide some background for a person who's only lived in the county for two years? Why is Orange County shipping its waste off rather than building a new landfill? I assume there were all sorts of NIMBY-ish fights about a new landfill and that's why the decision was made?

 Where is the trash going to be shipped to? 

Gloria, you might want to search the OP archives for "landfill" to find out some of the big issues.

On another note, have any of you all heard of RecycleBank?  They are a recycling company that works with towns and gives people financial incentives for recycling. Apparently their program increases recycling by a huge amount. 

Does anyone know if Chapel Hill or Carrboro has ever looked into this? 

No one in the area effected by the new top sites wants it there either. And the Rogers Road folks have so exagerated what the transfer station is and cried "wolf" so much that no one would want it now.

These new sites are far from the interstate, which means more large trucks rumbling up 54 to get to a site west of us or up 15/501 for sites north and east (Durham uses a landfill in VA, we likely would too). There is a landfill near Liberty but my understanding is that it is not large enough and very costly.

This is a solid waste issue that has somehow got a "social justice" tag stuck to it. The "leaders" of the Rogers Rd. group, Ms. Jones and Rev. Campbell mislead their followers, in my opinion and in the process "poisoned the waters" for a transfer station anywhere in the county.







There's a hypothesis that has been promoted by a coalition of green and social justice groups in NC that if locally undisirable land uses are prohibited in areas where the average income is low, racial makeup is largely minority, etc.  (i.e., typically powerless...though clearly not in this case) then the more well-off communities that remain on the list will have the political muscle to force alternative solutions.  I think it's a very interesting assertion and worth exploring. 

I haven't seen it myself, but from what I've been told, the transfer station siting criteria and ranking is pretty shoddy work, e.g., social justice is worth 20 points, cost is worth 5 points, etc and then communities are ranked on each of these criteria.  Is that true?  How was that done?  BTW, don't be fooled by the difference between "7.3" and "looks right to me".  There is a very big difference between "precision" and "accuracy" and if you take subjective criteria and subjective analysis of those criteria and superimpose quantitative measures (ranking, for example) it does nothing to improve the accuracy, only the precision.

The airport resistance that is forming appears to have a broader perspective than the transfer station resistance in that they are saying no to any airport anywhere. This is perhaps a little easier assertion since there's no apparent need for an airport and there is an apparent need for more landfill capacity.  But isn't pitting community against community in win-lose scenarios kind of against progressive principles?

What are the creative solutions to solid waste?  For a progressive community, we sure seem to be ready to accept status quo solutions.

First the leadership has adopted a status quo approach to the problem. Then they chose logistically to locate the transfer station is the furthest location from where the trash is produced and the ultimate destination of the trash.

You cannot say "no transfer station anywhere" but I do think you can say

1) The solution must make it in the interest of the main producers to reduce trash as much as possible and....

2) The solution should be as efficent as possible (i.e don't pollute unnecessicarily in order to solve the problem

I fail to see why these seemingly obvious guiding principles seem to have gotten lost in the discussion.

 Or.....maybe we could just contract with the the transfer station in Durham :)

Paul, are you really blaming the Rogers Road community for the NIMBY reactions from all potential transfer station site communities?  Do you think that the other neighborhoods would be bidding and salivating for the transfer station only if that "villainous" Rogers Road community had not been so "devious"?  That thought process would be truly outrageous, certainly creative, but outrageous none the less.

Maybe it was a Halloween joke, because it's kind of scary.

They greatly exagerated what a transfer station is and what the environmental impacts would be, in my opinion.

Let me just point out that Orange County was the first County to ever meet NC's State Solid Waste Reduction goals - and OC has had more success in reducing per capita landfilling than any other county in North Carolina - reduced 25% since 1990.

And our County has adopted a goal of reducing landfilling to 40% below 1990 levels.  Having worked on the issue for 18 years now, I know that County staff (Gayle Wilson, Blair Pollock etc.) take these goals seriously.

Maybe I am over-reacting, but County Commissioner Barry Jacobs and I spent three hours in a committee meeting on the future of recycling, waste reduction and composting in O.C. just today.  Not exactly a party I can assure you.  I am sure that there is always more we can do, but it would not be fair to imply that the BOCC and the towns don't care about reducing solid waste landfilling.  We are working hard on these issues.

Incidentally, we are starting up curbside cardboard recycling collection next month. 


Recycling programs are very important. Too bad OC does not extend the program county wide.

Again, the main points are that 1) if the problem is removed from the municipalities then there is less impetus to reduce the problem at the source 2) The place in the county chosen (so far) for the transfer station is the *furthest* physical location in the county from the ultimate destination, causing unnecessary additional cost and pollution and 3) the places chosen (so far) are places that do not  benefit one iota from the project; just like Cane Creek reservoir.

Well, I guess I read your comment "the leadership has adopted a status quo approach" differently than you do.

Your comment "Too bad OC does not extend the program county wide" is misleading.  The County's recycling program is quite extensive and is available in different ways to everyone in the County.  As a county we have not extended curbside collection to every single household, but that is a question of trying to spend dollars wisely. 

We could capture more recylables by expanding the range of materials collected or we could capture more recyclables by collecting from more households. But which approach will get us more bang for the buck?  Those are the types of questions that we struggle with in solid waste management planning.

I do understand your other points about the distance etc.

I can see how you might read that into my statement. I should clarify that IMO the "status quo" is adopting as fact that a centralized repository for the transfer station is the best solution. The "status quo" is the continued and repeated attempts to transfer (pun intended) the problem to the county somewhere out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

I do not disagree that the municipalities care about reducing solid waste, but my point is that they would care *more* if they had to deal with all its effects. Don't you agree?

As far as your point about curbside recycling, I am not so sure that it is or is not cost effective, what costs are being considered? I would love to read about why the boundary was drawn where it is and how 1.2 miles up the road is cost effective but my house is not.

Speaking of cost, has there been any projection about how much additional money it will cost to haul trash an extra 20 miles or so? (i am figuring consevatively 10 miles each way. (my guestimate is another 3-5 million a year).

Thanks for clarifying.

As for the cost of hauling, I know that the Towns have emphasized the cost considerations in our communications with the County - especially with regard to distance that we have to haul.

I don't know the numbers on rural recycling, but I know that those numbers have been analyzed a number of times.  I can get you more info if you would like it.

Don't want curbside collection in rural parts. I have to take my trash off each week and I take my recyclables then. If you have curbside trash pickup then curbside recyclying make sense.
I live rurally and have curbside recycling but no curbside trash.
If I had curbside recycling I could go longer before I needed to carry my trash to the "transfer station"

I am curious why the proposed sites are so large (acreage)? Do you have any insight (or incite) on that ?


Hooray for curbside cardboard!  It is the last piece of my recycling puzzle, and as it stands, my trunk tends to be full of cardboard until I try to put something else in there, and remember to go recyle it. 

A lot of good work has been done on recycling in Orange County.

However, when the county banned mixed loads of construction waste, the amount of construction waste entering the landfill dropped severely. The trucks went to Wake County and other landfills. This drop in waste was factored in to the waste reduction figure, which actually makes that 25% number a little less impressive.

Based on information from Energy Answers (a waste to energy co that also builds transfer stations), a waste transfer station needs 1-2 acres - not 25 that the BOCC are looking for. They recommend a site by a highway and ideally near railroad tracks. Building one in a brownfield (existing landfill) takes 2-3 months; in a greenfield 18-24 months.

 The increased hauling costs for Chapel Hill and Carrboro to go to Hillsborough are estimated at $600,000  or more mm a year - not sure about the 54 sites. Add land aquisition, site preparation/infrastructure costs, it looks like a $5-10 mm decision to site this thing away from the population center. 

 A full blown waste-to-energy center would be very expensive (over $100 milion for 1000 ton/day facility). However, there may be options, that are much cheaper, to re-engineer the coal fired plant that powers the UNC campus and hospital. Waste is not quite as clean as natural gas - but much cleaner than fossil fuels. Its also possible to do something in concert with Duke or Piedmont power generation.

Durham Solid Waste Services may be willing to help if we get into a time crunch with our existing landfill. So we may be able to alleviate some of the time pressures

 Oh yes - and theres a projected population center expected along the highway between Mebane and Hillsborough. Not sure how that plays in the mix.

 Isn't there a win-win here?

The following is a link to Neloa Jones' statement to the BOCC hearing on the transfer station on 11/17:'s worth reading.

The residents of southwest Orange County were much appreciative of this statement.

I believe eloquent is the best description of Neloa's statement.

It is interesting that the Eubanks Rd. and Bingham Township have received the unwanted projects of all the governments in Orange but when it comes for someone else's turn oh no NOT US. When will it stop?

Over the past couple of years as we have discussed whether or not Eubanks Road should be the home of the proposed transfer station, the primary reason against that decision has been environmental justice. Rogers Road houses the current landfill, and no community should be expected to carry the burden of two environmentally disruptive services for the rest of the community.And yet now, the Orange County Manager and solid waste director have recommended the new transfer station be located on a plot of land west of Carrboro off Highway 54. That site is located in neighborhood of OWASA's Cane Creek Reservoir, OWASA's sludge dumping site, and a number of farms who take sludge from the city of Burlington.So the solution for moving the transfer station's preliminary site from Rogers Road to Hwy 54 is not a resolution of an environmental injustice. It transfer the injustice from a racially impacted neighborhood to a rural community. For those new to this community, Cane Creek used to be a wealthy, productive dairy farming community. Then OWASA and the county took the land of families who had been farming in that area for generation to build a reservoir to meet the water needs of a growing urban community. Sludge, or what water and sewer professionals called biosolids (what's left after sewer waste is dewatered), contains the concentrated toxins of all the waste from the hospitals, research labs, commercial businesses, and residences inside the urban services boundary around Chapel Hill and Carrboro. A portion of that concentrated waste is then taken out to OWASA's land...on HWY 54....and spread on the soil. The city of Burlington has several farmers in the Cane Creek area that allow their land to be used for similar purpose. These farmers have bought into the industry message that sludge is safe and it meets their needs for affordable fertilizer. There is currently an epidemiological study investigating the health problems of the people who live in the Cane Creek area to determine if all or any of those problems (including several neurological diseases) can be directly attributed to the sludge/biosolid application.I'm sorry to be so long winded, but the point of this missive is to point out that environmental justice is not just about race. The urban community of Orange County has imposed heavily upon the rural Cane Creek community. I encourage everyone of you to let the county commissioners know that they will be spitting in the eye of environmental justice if they proceed with the county manager's recommendation to locate the waste transfer station on Hwy 54.

I think most everyone here readily agrees with you that environmental justice is about much more than race.  That said, only telling the commissioners what NOT to do does nothing to solve problems.  If Eubanks Rd and NC 54 are not the places to put a waste transfer station, where should it be sited instead?  Why?  How can this problem be dealt with in the most fair, equitable manner possible?   Lest anyone misconstrue my intent, I am not advocating that the Cane Creek area or Eubanks/Rogers Rd is where we should put a waste transfer station.  But we need to say where things SHOULD go, if we say they shouldn't go somewhere else.  

The solution I proposed, along with many, many others, on the night of the public hearing was to place the waste transfer station in a commercial district close to the interstate. Here's what I said in the email I sent to the commissioners earlier this morning:

I urge you to go to Hillsborough and work out something. Place the transfer station somewhere within the commercial/industrial district along the interstates. Please do not perpetrate another environmental injustice just because the consultant messed up.

 The sticking point on this proposal is that the town of Hillsborough has threated to annex any sites selected within their perimeter. If they were to carry through with their threat it would create the same extended timeline for completing the project as if a site within any municipal planning jurisdiction. 

Terry,  I agree with you on placement.  As a point of interest how fast could Hillsborough get through a annexation process?  Political expediency has  always been the prime consideration.  Even in Gayle Wilson's latest recommendation memo, the stated best reason for the recommended site is that it is large enough to not require another difficult politically charged search at a later date. It seems that expediency trumps all the rational arguments for your solution.The determination of type and location of a new trash facility looking back at least 12 years has not been a shining example of good governance for any  of the Orange County governments.  They may have done other things well but this subject has definitely not been one of them.  I believe there is a graduate thesis waiting to be written using the past 12 years as the case study on what not to do.

The failure of the 1991-92 landfill search led to the procrastination that led to us being in this corner. It was totally avoidable. If the county had followed the recommendations of the Orange Citizens Landfill Council in 1992, we would not be in this mess. It is quite possibly the the biggest policy failure in OC history. Now some god-forsaken community over the horizon will receive our trash.

The current solution is arbitrary and the result of a flawed process (sites under 25 acres were not considered and thus a lot of possibilities in industrial areas were eliminated). Given the comments of Laura Blackmon, I have to believe the county either intends to site a landfill on the 140 acres, or has opened the door to this decision as a consequence of "path of least resistance" politics in the future. As I said in my email to the county commisioners, history does not repeat itself but it rhymes.


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