I received an email today regarding the White Street Landfill. The questions were: "Did you get the brochure in your city services bill about going to the transfer system for garbage next year? Is it a done deal or not? Can you help stop it without imperiling the railroad’s support?!" By "railroad" he meant the Underground Railroad aka the Simpkin's PAC... in other words Black support.
I have not received the brochure and I'm not sure if closing the landfill is "a done deal or not". But I have been looking into the issue:
The White Street Landfill has been there a long time, since the 1940’s, it was started by the U.S. Army and longtime residents still call it “the city dump”. It was designated as a potential “Superfund site” in the 1980’s because of the crap that was put in it over the years by industry.
There have been people living near it for decades. My information is that when the “dump” was started the area was predominantly white; it is now mainly black.
There has been no one to come forward and propose another expansion. Even if such a proposal were to be made it probably ain’t gonna happen because of some well-intentioned but ultimately ill-conceived past planning on the part of the City. Let me explain.
Nealtown Farms, subsidized by the City with free land and low interest loans, was begun in 1990 near the landfill. It sold out pretty quickly.
In 1994 those same new residents were up in arms because the City announced plans to expand the landfill to within 200 feet of some of the neighbor's property. The Nealtown Neighborhood Association sued the City claiming that they were not told of the expansion before purchasing their homes but they lost the suit on a technicality.
As a compromise, the City offered to buy back the 82 effected Nealtown houses at a fair purchase price under a settlement that included taxpayers paying all closing costs and up to $300 in moving expenses. This offer to Nealtown residents expired in 1999. Not many of the residents (12 initially) took the City up on their offer. Most of the Nealtown Farmers liked everything about where were living except the landfill and probably decided to wait it out.
Furthermore, the City also agreed to limit the planned 1998 expansion of the landfill to within 500 feet of the development and to construct a berm to hide the site and help mitigate the unpleasantness. In return, residents agreed not to object to the 1998 expansion plans. They did not agree to refrain from opposing any future expansions, however.
As an aside, back in 1996 the City was loudly criticized for clear cutting thousands of trees that were a buffer between the landfill and the community around Hines Chapel Road to get at a bunch of dirt needed to fill and line the 1998 phase of the landfill. This created more ill will in that part of town because the City never claimed responsibility for the screw-up. That neighborhood was annexed into Greensboro shortly after the flap so now is part of us.
Residents all along White Street who are not near the actual landfill have long complained about the traffic coming and going up and down the street. Many of the big trucks go way too fast and garbage gets strewn everywhere, I’ve seen it happen many times. The new Painter Boulevard interchange at Cone Boulevard, recently re-instated by the state, was pursued to alleviate much of the White Street traffic but that is in the not too distant future, the trucks are there now.
The place stinks to high heaven in the summer. Between it and the sewage treatment plant nearby, visitors to the now-defunct (but hopefully re-emerging)Carolina Circle Mall used to hold their breath from the car until they got inside. Not a good smell for successful development.
Another thing to note is that without further expansion, White Street is slated to close in 2008 anyway. The current plan is to close the garbage portion of it in 2005 while keeping the rest of it open to accept construction (C&D) and other land clearing debris (LCID), as well as a backup if our garbage dumping is held hostage by the owners of the landfill that we will be contracting with (a very real possibility) for the foreseeable future.
The point of my history lesson is this: The White Street Landfill has done its job for over 60 years and Northeast Greensboro’s development has been stunted because of it. The Nealtown Farms saga is witness to this fact. Developers are reticent to invest in the area because they fear a strong breeze will come up and potential buyers or merchant’s customers will sniff the air and ask; “what’s that smell?” – never to return.
So what do we do with our garbage? The current proposal to build two transfer stations so we can export our waste to some other White Street is a very expensive proposition. We currently pay $5.00 per month; we will soon pay around $20.00 per month with no enhancement of service. The increase is simply due to the costs of the transfer stations and the tipping fee to bury the stuff at some far-flung landfill.
Have we looked at all of the options now that we know how much the public is willing to pay? I have of heard no loud, concerted opposition to the higher fees, most folks are resigned to the fact that we have to do something eventually anyway. The increase just comes at a terrible time in our economic life.
Can garbage be transformed into renewable energy as this article (and another) on plasma converters suggests? I don’t know the answers yet, but I am looking. It looks like the first transfer station is “a done deal” and will be built unless another option comes to the fore very quickly.
To answer the last part of the emailer's question, "Can you help stop it without imperiling the railroad's (read black) support?!" Perhaps... if I were so inclined, but I am not. I believe that White Street is a hindrance to East Greensboro's future viability as an equal part of the City and we could use a more equitable approach to development. Sometimes an issue balances on fairness, not money.