Landfill future in limbo

Published 11:38 pm Friday, February 25, 2011

Despite batting around the idea of selling or closing the regional landfill, Southeastern Public Service Authority board members will have to hold off any decision on the site until at least spring.

“It’s something that everybody has thought about,” said SPSA executive director Rowland Taylor.

The city of Suffolk would have to approve any sale of the landfill, according to its use and support agreement with SPSA.

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The landfill has been losing money since last spring, when Wheelabrator took over the waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth. As a part of that agreement, all waste that can be burned is taken to that facility. As a result, the Suffolk landfill is accepting mostly construction and demolition debris at a rate of $30 per ton.

Earlier this week, the board voted to approve a handful of layoffs at the landfill, to cut its hours and to postpone paving projects, all in an attempt to save money. Board members also voted to schedule a public hearing on increasing the tipping fee for construction and demolition waste to $40 per ton.

Taylor said determining the future of the landfill is a major goal of the board. However, any decision must wait until SPSA receives the results of an upcoming study on how the region will handle its waste disposal post-2018, the Authority’s contractual sunset date.

“The SCS study is what everybody’s sort of waiting on,” Taylor said. “The communities’ question is, ‘Do they want a SPSA-type organization past 2018.’”

On Friday, Mayor Linda T. Johnson did not want to talk much about the issue, since she was not present during the discussion. She did, however, stress regional cooperation in whatever moves are made.

“We need to look at what’s best for the community as a whole and for the region as a whole,” she said.