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Foxhole Landfill Neighbors Still Wary Of County Plan, ReVenture

MARK RUMSEY: Mecklenburg County authorities faced another room of angry Ballantyne residents Monday night. About 200 filled the Elon Park Elementary gym - mostly to protest plans for more waste at the nearby Foxhole Landfill. WFAE's Julie Rose has been following this story and joins me now. Julie, Mecklenburg County officials last night shared some good news with Ballantyne residents - they no longer expect to send any household waste to the Foxhole Landfill. That was a major concern for neighbors of the site, so why was the meeting so testy? ROSE: Well, because nothing is final. The county has a proposal that would let it keep sending our household trash to the landfill we're currently using up near the speedway. But there's no signed contract. It could still fall through. And fundamentally residents in Ballantyne are skeptical of anything the county says right now. RUMSEY: Why is that? ROSE: Well, for about 10 years, the county has been operating under an agreement with the Foxhole's neighbors that the dump would only take construction and demolition debris. Then, about a month ago, the county commission quietly approved 15-million dollars to expand capacity at the Foxhole Landfill. That's when talk of allowing household waste to go there started up. And the county also gave tentative support for the Foxhole to be the dump site for ash from a controversial plan to burn trash and make electricity. That's called ReVenture. RUMSEY: Now we've been hearing about ReVenture for the last year. How did it get caught up in this Foxhole issue? ROSE: That's what people at last night's meeting wanted to know. Many of them were hearing about ReVenture for the very first time. So they're feeling bamboozled, frankly. As they came to the microphone to vent their concerns last night, Mecklenburg County Solid Waste Director Bruce Gledhill frequently interjected. "Why is Foxhole the only option for ReVenture?" Lisa Thornton wanted to know. "It isn't," said Gledhill. "Well you said that for them to continue their permit at the state level, we had to throw Foxhole in there so it doesn't get shut down," continued Thornton. "Well they've had a full month to find some other people to take their. . . " "And a month is a very short time for contracts of this nature," interrupted Gledhill. Longtime Foxhole Landfill neighbor Peggy Beck demanded to know if the waste from the ReVenture project would be hazardous. "I know you say it can't be," said Beck. "How are you going to monitor it? We just don't want it. Why can't they contract with Republic to take this?" "Maybe they will," responded Gledhill. "But categorically it can't be hazardous." "It's very obvious that no matter what was said here today, you've already made up your mind," added another landfill neighbor. "Are we wasting our time? Is this a joke or something?" "I've lived a long time," said Jack Jackson. "I grew up in D.C. I was around in the '70s and this sounds like Foxholegate to me!" RUMSEY: Foxholegate? Is he claiming there's some sort of conspiracy here? ROSE: There's certainly a feeling in the community that county officials are doing everything they can to help the ReVenture developers. Now solid waste director Bruce Gledhill and County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts continue to insist they haven't signed off on ReVenture yet. They're just trying to keep the option open. But they're both big proponents of the concept of using our trash to make electricity rather than just dumping it in a landfill. The problem is that right now ReVenture is just a concept. There's not a plant like it anywhere in the U.S. and the details are very much in flux. Last night it was pretty obvious that people who live near the Foxhole Landfill are uncomfortable with the uncertainty. Commissioner Roberts was there, too, and here's the message she came away with: "What I hear tonight is absolutely all trust has been eroded and I am truly sorry to hear that," said Commissioner Roberts. RUMSEY: Did she make any promises to try and restore the trust? ROSE: Well she did try to point out that her being at the public hearing was evidence that she's listening. The county commission probably won't undo its vote to expand capacity at the Foxhole Landfill. But any approval of REVenture is still a ways off. They're waiting for an outside expert to weigh in. RUMSEY: Alright Julie, thanks for that update. WFAE's Julie Rose. You can find more of her coverage on this issue online at www.wfae.org.