Their View: Northeast Kentucky shouldn't have to take all trash
In the 1980s, the people of this region - most of them volunteers - fought a valiant battle to prevent northeast Kentucky from becoming the final resting place for garbage from distant states. We thought that battle had been won, but we were wrong. Those efforts only delayed the importation of trash from New York, New Jersey and other states far from Kentucky.
The trash produced by businesses and households hundreds of miles from this community soon will be buried in Big Run Landfill off U.S. 60 in Boyd County. Much of it will be brought to the landfill not by the truckload, but by the trainload. CSX currently is building a 3,000-foot rail spur to Big Run.
That which so many good people worked so hard to prevent has become a reality. And, almost unbelievably, some of our elected officials do not seem particularly disturbed by this development. Instead, they see the $1 the operators of Big Run will pay county government for each ton of out-of-state garbage buried there as a potentially lucrative new source of revenue for county government. After all, many tons of New Jersey garbage can be loaded onto a train and transported some 500 miles to Boyd County.
Some 15 years ago, there was good reason for being confident that the importation of garbage from distant states no longer posed a serious threat to this region. After all, Roe Creek Landfill just off U.S. 23 in Lawrence County had been shut down by the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, and its rather shady operators had moved to parts unknown. And Green Valley Environmental Landfill in Greenup County had received its state permit only after agreeing with GROWL - Greenup Residents Opposed to Waste Landfill - to only accept waste from nearby counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.
In addition, with the full support of then-Gov. Wallace Wilkinson, the Kentucky General Assembly approved new landfill regulations making the burial of trash in Kentucky much more expensive. We were confident those regulations not only made burial of trash in Kentucky more environmentally sound but also made the state less attractive for distant states seeking a place to dispose of their waste.
That was then. This is now. The operator of Big Run - River Cities Disposal LLC, a subsidiary of EnviroSolutions Holding Inc. of Chantilly, Va. - already has received the necessary state permits to accept baled trash from New York and New Jersey, and one can expect other states soon will be added to that list.
The bales of compacted trash already have passed the “sniff tests” necessary for CSX Transportation to agree to transport it over its rail lines, and Kentucky regulations require that 3 percent to 5 percent of the bales be inspected before burial here.
Mike Vossmer, district manager of River Cities Disposal, says the 3-ton bales of trash buried at the landfill mostly will be compacted household waste. There will be no hazardous material buried there. But even if the trash is perfectly safe, why should Kentucky be the happy burial ground for the trash of people living on the East Coast and elsewhere? What they do with their trash is their problem. Why make it Kentucky's?
For generations, the rich natural resources of this region helped build the homes and office buildings of this nation and helped provide electricity, heat and air conditioning for much of the rest of the nation. But the iron for steel, clay for bricks and coal for power plants is all but gone from this region's soil. Now those natural resources are being replaced by an unnatural resource: garbage from distant states.
Does anyone really believe coal for trash is a fair trade? In our book, burying trash from distant states in Boyd County is yet another example of this region being used for the benefit of outsiders.
- The Independent, Ashland