When anyone talks about what's ahead for Columbia County in 2004, undoubtedly the biggest topics are the massive construction projects on the way.
Marshall Square is expected to get off the ground this year, the county's massive new main library nears completion and the Target/Kohl's shopping center will soon begin to take shape. And, of course residential growth and road projects will continue.
But there's one event coming up this year that, in terms of the number of citizens affected, is bigger than all of them combined.
It's the closure of Columbia County's landfill.
Landfill manager Don Bartles says the day of reckoning is coming soon. "You're looking at the back end of 2005" for the landfill to reach capacity, he says.
What then? Columbia County is a wealthy community, but it's also terribly wasteful. When the landfill reaches the end of its 10-year life span, Columbia County's garbage will be hauled to the Richmond County landfill.
Years ago, Columbia County commissioners considered buying property for a second landfill, but the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) crowd shot it down. It's OK to roll a garbage can out to the curb, but no one wants everyone else's trash brought to their neighborhood.
That's why, for example, the citizens of Taliaferro County are fighting against a landfill project that could turn their community into other people's dumping ground. We're already hearing some of that resentment coming from south Augusta residents.
So there's little chance Columbia County will ever build another landfill. How, then, do residents take responsibility for their own trash?
One way is through an aggressive recycling program. Residents clearly favor the concept: A straw poll on the July 20, 2004 Democratic primary ballot and two online polls on The News-Times Web site have shown strong support for a county recycling initiative.
When the old landfill is shut down, it likely will continue to be used as a drop-off site for big recyclables such as old appliances, and potentially as a transfer station for garbage trucks to consolidate their loads into bigger containers for shipment to Richmond County.
Wouldn't it be nice if there could also be a sorting and recycling center on the site to allow recovery of useful materials, and cut down on the amount of garbage our community asks another community to bury?
After all, one of the more exciting announcements Columbia County is waiting on is whether USA Shooting will pick the closed landfill as the site for a new headquarters and firing range for the sporting organization. Surely, if the landfill itself can be recycled, so can Columbia County's garbage.
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