Aiken County could see significant changes to the way it handles garbage disposal, according to local lawmakers, if a legislative proposal impacting solid waste disposal at landfills is approved.
A S.C. House of Representatives bill has already been passed and would restrict counties from instituting laws known as flow control ordinances, a local measure that requires all of a county's waste to be disposed of in that particular county's landfills.
According to Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian, Horry County currently has such an ordinance in its code of laws and has consequently triggered debate in the General Assembly.
The House bill, also known as the Business Freedom to Choose Act, is cosponsored by local S.C. Rep. Bill Hixon.
Hixon said he supports the proposal because it would help to keep solid waste disposal in the state as a competitive process and wouldn't allow counties to monopolize their garbage disposal procedures.
The vast majority of solid waste in Aiken County is transported to the Three Rivers Landfill. The landfill is a joint operation established decades ago by a collaboration of nine adjacent counties, including Aiken.
The landfill charges the county for the amount of trash it disposes through tipping fees, which are currently about $33 a ton.
He said the proposed ordinance could trigger a private trash company to undercut the tipping fees at Three Rivers and hurt its financial stability.
“We would be at the mercy of the private haulers as to where they would take it. That's a big concern of ours,” he said, noting that the legislation could void such contracts and impact where the county's trash is disposed.
He noted that a private company would not have the same oversight as a public entity such as Three Rivers has and that local governments were not taking an “anti-business approach,” but were trying to protect a valued asset for the public.
Hixon said he understands such concerns and has been told that the Senate bill is currently addressing those issues. He said he originally thought the bill might “die a slow death,” but felt with the right adjustments, it could be approved and signed into law.
Massey said he still has concerns about the bill and wants to make sure the final product wouldn't negatively impact the Three Rivers landfill and trash disposal of local residents.
S.C. Sen. Tom Young said he hasn't examined the bill too closely yet since it hasn't come to the floor yet but also said he hopes amendments would provide legislative fixes to local concerns.
• Michael Ulmer covers the county government beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since March 2013. He is a native of North Augusta and majored in political science at the University of South Carolina.