2008-09-10 / Columns

Don't jump to conclusions

LEDGER COLUMNIST
CODY SOSSAMON PUBLISHER

There was a time in my life when I formed opinions on something or someone without taking the time to fully inform myself about the person or the issue.

Truth be told, I still have that tendency and have to resist the urge to do so. Some people label this type of behavior as 'jumping to conclusions.'

With each passing year, I see more clearly the benefit of looking at and listening to all sides before casting my lot with one or the other.

I've also learned that changing my mind if new evidence comes to light is OK.

One of my favorite quotes is from Herbert Spencer (an English philosopher and political theorist of the Victorian era) and I've used it in previous columns: "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

Put in simpler terms, I think what he is saying is "don't knock it until you've tried it."

With this in mind, I'll move on to the real subject of this column - Waste Management's proposed "3Cycle Cherokee County Environmental Management Center," as they prefer to call it.

They've come up with a pretty name and thrown in a lot of extra added attractions, but the bottom line is what they are proposing is a landfill.

Granted, their stated concept is vastly different than landfills of the past where you dig a hole in the ground, dump various kinds of waste and trash into and cover it up.

Waste Management's proposal is to reduce the amount of waste put in the landfill by recycling much of what is brought to the facility and reuse it to make new products.

This effort will include construction and demolition waste as well as household and industrial recyclables such as plastic, paper, aluminum, glass and more.

Just how much or what percentage of the trash brought in from a 75-mile radius of the facility will be recycled is an unknown. It will, however, be to Waste Management's benefit to keep as much out of the landfill as possible.

First, the less they put in, the longer the landfill can be used.

Second, it's a fact that there's money to be made in recycling and judging from their balance sheets, these folks like to make money.

The recycling part of the equation is just one of the attractions to this project. There's also the 1,000 acres of the 1,500 acre site they've promised to "maintain and protect' in its natural environment.

Waste Management has outlined several other programs and services that make the project sound good, not to mention the revenue it will generate for the county — about $2.5 million per year. When you consider the county's budget is only about $18 million, that's not chump change.

I've heard some questions and concerns about bringing trash in from outside Cherokee County. That doesn't bother me in the least. Currently, our trash is being taken out of the county for disposal and I haven't heard anyone say we shouldn't send OUR trash somewhere else.

If the recycling effort is successful and the disposal of that which cannot be recycled is done in a safe and efficient manner, what's the fuss?

The biggest drawback I see now is the impact on the residents of the area surrounding the site on McKown's Mountain Road. And for those folks, I would imagine that's a pretty big deal.

Waste Management officials estimate 200-300 trucks per day will be moving in and out of the facility. If "3Cycle Cherokee County Environmental Management Center' operates 10 hours per day, that's one truck going to or from it once every 60 seconds. That's a lot of traffic.

Now, if those affected residents can somehow be placated, it seems to me to be a no-brainer.

Let's be realistic, though. ALL of them will never accept what's being proposed for their 'backyard.'

Ultimately, the fate of this project rests in the hands of Cherokee County Council. They will have to weigh the positives versus the negatives and hopefully make their decision based on what's best for the entire county.

This project could put us on the map as being in the forefront of recycling and waste disposal or it could label us as the region's dumping ground.

I implore county council and the residents of this county to investigate Waste Management's proposal and study the pros and cons before forming an opinion — good or bad.

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