From: Dave Schleck, Daily Press
Published May 17, 2005 12:00 AM

More Imported Trash Finding Its Way to Virginia

The signs are everywhere -- barges loaded with out-of-state trash are coming to Virginia.

The organization that handles trash in South Hampton Roads is slowly moving toward accepting barges carrying New York City garbage to Portsmouth.

A trash company, Waste Industries USA, is building a new landfill in North Carolina that could bring a caravan of trash trucks offloading barges in southeastern Virginia.

Another hauler, Waste Management, hasn't given up plans to barge waste up the James River to Charles City County.

Out-of-state trash is nothing new to Virginia. In 2003, the state accepted 6.6 million tons -- enough to fill 60,000 trucks and second only to Pennsylvania. The amount of imported waste trucked into Virginia has sharply increased in recent years.

But trash barging is something different. The Old Dominion hasn't seen barges since Charles City stopped accepting them in 1998 when the Coast Guard found liquid from the trash leaking into the James River.

Efforts to stop out-of-state trash have failed. Courts ruled that the Constitution ensures the free flow of garbage as a form of interstate commerce.

The latest move toward barging waste comes from the Southeastern Public Service Authority, which handles garbage from eight localities, including Suffolk and Isle of Wight County.

Last year, the authority handled 1.5 million tons of mostly local trash.

About 40 percent came from private contracts and the rest from localities.

The authority's two largest private haulers -- Waste Management and Waste Industries USA -- have said they will not renew trash disposal contracts when they expire next year, according to the authority's staff.

That leaves the authority searching for more trash, and its accompanying $11 million in revenue, to prevent serious price hikes for localities.

"We're trying to keep our prices as low as possible by processing as much waste as possible," said John Hadfield, the executive director of the authority.

Lisa Kardell, spokeswoman for Waste Management, said it's premature to say her company is not extending its contract with the Southeastern Public Service Authority.

"Currently, we're waiting for a proposal from them regarding our contract in 2006," Kardell said.

Felicia Blow, the authority's director of public relations and marketing, said Waste Management rejected the authority's first offer, saying it would consider a new contract only if other private waste haulers agreed.

Those haulers haven't been forthcoming.

"It's a vicious cycle," Blow said.

Another of the authority's customers, Waste Industries USA, is building a landfill in Camden County, N.C., to accept several thousands tons of trash a day, said Richard MacManus, an authority board member who is also on the Board of Supervisors in Isle of Wight County. "They're not quite as interested in doing business with us if they have their own landfill," MacManus said.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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