Private Or Gov’t-Owned Landfill? (Not Dump)

To The Reader’s Forum:

Frank Witgen’s op-ed regarding Chautauqua County’s solid waste program highlights a central County objective, as stated in their Solid Waste Management Plan:

“Although the County owns and operates the Ellery Landfill, it has made a commitment to encourage private sector participation in its solid waste management program. Consistent with this is the encouragement of the maximum degree of competition in the private sector in order to assure the best service and most cost effective solutions to solid waste management problems. Examples of private sector involvement in the County’s program are…ownership and operation of construction and demolition waste disposal facilities.”

Managed competition is a widely accepted methodology providing maximum value to taxpayers and improvements in service quality. The accepted theory is that if private firms can reduce cost and still profit, government agencies operating in a competitive environment will focus on results, and reduce costs to its constituents even further. Accordingly, the Jones Carroll landfill is specifically identified in the County’s plan.

The op-ed goes on to insinuate that privately owned solid waste facilities may employ a lesser standard of environmental protection, are a haven for “nefarious dumping” and are poorly monitored. Proper research will show that is simply not so. For instance, New York landfill owners must fund perpetual post closure care of their facilities. Private companies use their own money and are highly motivated to employ best practices to manage risk and liability; whereas, governments use taxpayer dollars and are less likely to feel similarly vested.

With respect to environmental risks and costs, the adverse environmental and health effects cited by those opposed to private contemporary landfills more often than not emanate from government-owned dumps without any environmental controls at all. Take for example the Town of Carroll’s unlined hazardous waste dump that was recently capped using taxpayer funds, and that will continue to use taxpayer money for perpetual maintenance. To those at the recent hearing for the Carroll C&D Management Facility who complained of high cancer rates and sickness, perhaps they should consider the impact on their health from the Town’s informed decision to install Well #5 immediately west of that dump. For as long as that well is in use, the Town must operate a taxpayer funded treatment system that strips most, but according to County Health Department records, not all, of the chlorinated organic solvent seeping from their unlined dump into the drinking water supply.

James A. Daigler

Grand Island