Like Gov. Sanford, I’ve always believed that a big part of maximizing South Carolina’s competitiveness involves preserving the unique look and feel of our state.
After all, the health of our natural resources is directly linked to our financial health, and jeopardizing one means jeopardizing the other.
One thing is clear, though. You don’t accomplish either objective by becoming the nation’s dumping ground for refuse – which is precisely where our state is headed if we continue down our current path.
I made these and many other points in an interview with the Free Times newspaper in Columbia last week.
You can read that story by clicking here, but I believe the numbers bear repeating.
Almost 30% of the waste disposed of in South Carolina last year came from other states, an amount that has increased steadily over the past few years.
In 2001, our state imported 579,000 tons of garbage. Six years later, in 2007, that figure had more than tripled to 1.7 million tons, according to DHEC and the Congressional Research Service.
Nine other states currently use South Carolina as a dumping ground, with North Carolina alone bringing 628,262 tons last year. Georgia and Florida also dump garbage in our state, as do Tennessee and Virginia.
But it’s not just our neighboring states; New York (417,196 tons), Massachusetts (366,054), and New Jersey (168,215) also ship their waste to S.C. landfills.
This trend directly threatens a key economic driver in our state at a time when we need all of our competitive advantages firing at full throttle.
As a state, we need to make the most of our prized assets, not diminish their lasting value for short-term gain.
And short-term gain is all that the waste companies are offering to Marlboro County – a location they have selected because they believe they can bribe local politicians with $2 million in annual revenue and the promise of free waste storage.
And that’s what’s happening in Marlboro, where several politicians eager to cash in on this government payday are trying to grease skids for the landfill despite the fact that 94% of county residents oppose it.
That’s right – 94% of Marlboro residents said “No” to the proposed mega-dump in a countywide referendum in 2008, and I suspect any South Carolina community would respond with similar unanimity.
But lined up against such monolithic public opposition are some of the best insiders that money can buy, including a former Governor, Lt. Governor, Revenue Director and not one but two of the biggest law firms in the state.
This is truly David v. Goliath – the politicians and their power brokers versus the people.
You truly have to see these mega-dump sites to believe them. The garbage isn’t buried under ground, but stacked above ground and then covered with fresh dirt each day to cover the new deposits, literally creating huge, smelly mountains. There is no limit on how high garbage could be stacked as long as a landfill’s base is broad enough.
According to DHEC, we are only operating at half our waste capacity right now. These new mega-dumps would put us at one-third capacity.
That means South Carolina doesn’t need any new landfills right now – unless we’re going to go into the business of becoming the nation’s permanent dumping ground.
We need to say “NO” to these new mega-dumps, and implement a two-year moratorium on any new permitting for these facilities until we sort out a policy that makes sense for our state’s long-term economic best interests.
Moving forward under our current thinking will only end up trading tourists for trash.