Columbia County has a trash problem, and officials are looking for a solution.
"We're working on about six acres now," said Don Bartles, the superintendent of the county's Baker Place Road Landfill, at Thursday's meeting of the Solid Waste Management Authority. "Next year, we'll be lucky to have three (acres). We're just not going to be able to keep going like we are."
The problem is that the Baker Place Road Landfill - the only one in the county operated by the government - is already more than 75 percent full. That's the limit it was supposed to be at by 2003, when it is scheduled to be closed.
Now, with the landfill filling rapidly because of continued county growth and waste from other counties, the Solid Waste Authority must figure out how to keep the landfill operational for two more years.
A short-term solution brought up at Thursday's meeting was for the county to stop accepting waste from the commercial, industrial, construction demolition and sewer-sludge side. The issue was put on the agenda for the group's next meeting in January.
That option would allow for residential service to continue, and it would cut 64 percent of the intake, Bartles said.
"We really need to inject a plan and get it going," said Ron Beul, a member of the authority.
Still, there is the question of what to do after 2003. One answer suggested Thursday was Richmond County.
"We could let the free market prevail," said Bartles. "Just let a private company handle it somewhere else, and that somewhere else would be Richmond County."
Options proposed in the past have included expansion of the Baker Place Road Landfill or transforming the landfill into a waste-transfer station. Bartles said county commissioners have turned down both of those, but money will be available to change the landfill into a transfer station if the free-market solution doesn't work.
A transfer station, Bartles said, would allow the county's waste to be transferred from a smaller dump truck into a larger tractor trailer and then hauled away to a landfill several miles away. That would bring several competing landfills in the area into the equation in addition to Richmond County, and it could cut costs.
After the landfill closes, the county will be required to look after its upkeep for 30 years. During that time, Bartles said, the county could use the area as a site for compost production.
"It may make sense to have something going on there that's generating revenue while we're looking after it," he said.
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