County will fund study on landfill needs

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

Darlington County Council convened a special meeting December 14 to receive information from architecture and engineering firm Michael Baker International (MBI) regarding a possible solid waste management study for the county’s landfill and Darlington County Environmental Services Department (DCES).

Working with old equipment prone to breakdowns, DCES has struggled to maintain steady service in recent years. The needs for DCES are so extensive that recent 5-year and 10-year lists of capital needs incuded over $10 million in equipment replacement requests, with needed items like hauler trucks, trailers, roll-off containers for thirteen convenience sites, and a second transfer station.

Inside the DCES transfer station at the Great Cypress Road landfill, one conveyor machine carries all the county’s garbage from the station floor into transport trucks, and that conveyor is aged, overworked, and costly to repair. The steel conveyor belt alone costs $100,000.

Since County Council voted in 2011 to end a requirement for citizens to purchase and use proprietary yellow trash bags (a plan that served as a use tax, with residents paying to dispose of the actual amount of garbage they create), DCES has survived on a $53 per year solid waste fee, charged only to Darlington County property tax payers.

Renee Howle, DCES director, has said that the $53 fee covers regular daily operations for the landfill and convenience sites, but there is little margin for breakdowns and repairs, and equipment replacement is often out of the question.

Currently the county does not have a solid waste master plan to evaluate needs and maintain equipment and services, and the Environmental Services budget lacks enough money to pay for one, so the MBI project would be a “scope of work” document to give some direction as to which needs should be addressed first.

Robert Moser of MBI told council Monday that his firm would perform several evaluative tasks: develop a project work plan, analyze the county’s waste stream, evaluate the landfill’s existing facility and operations, analyze potential equipment and facilities feasibility, and provide a capital improvement and feasibility report.

County administrator Terence Arrington said the scope of work document would not be binding or require action by the county, but could serve as “a roadmap” to help see the way forward for this crucial department.

After an executive session, council voted to allocate $81,590.94 for Michael Baker International to conduct this study. Council member Bobby Kilgo suggested one amendment to the agreement – eliminating all language suggesting Darlington County might accept out-of-state recyclables and solid waste – and council agreed to excise this section of the proposal.

Author: Duane Childers

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