Court clears way for garbage mandates

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 6, 2007

COURTLAND—A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court could help cut the cost of trash disposal in Hampton Roads by almost 50 percent.

The April 30 decision in the case of United Haulers Association Inc. v. Oneida Herkimer Solid Waste Authority restores the right of localities to control the destination of commercial waste generated within their communities.

The change in policies could result in a savings of more than $191 million for members of the Southeastern Public Service Authority between now and 2018.

John Hadfield, executive director of the authority, made separate presentations about the so-called &uot;flow control ordinance&uot; recently to the Southampton County Board of Supervisors and the Franklin City Council.

Both local governing bodies are members of the regional waste authority and have been asked to approve resolutions that would impose flow control within their boundaries and direct that all locally created waste be taken to SPSA facilities.

According to a question-and-answer handout given to Southampton’s board, &uot;The entire SPSA system was built from 1976 to 1985 under the assumption that SPSA localities could control the flow of waste (and thus generate enough disposal revenue to finance the construction and maintenance of the system).&uot;

&uot;The competitive business model, married with the monopolistic business model is something that we have been grappling with for the past 13 years,&uot; Hadfield told the Board of Supervisors recently. &uot;And, frankly, it’s not something we think has worked very well.&uot;

When the Supreme Court ruled the flow-control practice unconstitutional for commercial waste in 1994, SPSA saw a 39-percent drop in solid waste in one year. SPSA members have paid higher and higher fees each year to help make up for that loss, Hadfield said.

By overturning its earlier decision as it applied to communities participating in regional authorities such as SPSA, the court opened the door for substantial cost savings, Hadfield said.

According to SPSA estimates, the change would save Southampton about $6.5 million during the 10-year period from 2009 to 2018. Franklin would save almost $2.6 million during the same period.

Southampton made radical changes to its solid waste system, fencing off its 16 collection sites, limiting their hours of operation and placing attendants on duty during those hours.

The changes there have resulted in a steep drop in the amount of trash the county hauls to SPSA’s Suffolk landfill and a resulting fall in the cost of tipping fees.