Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:22 PM EDT
A new bill would ease restrictions on landfills in North Carolina, allowing them to be built next to state parks and protected wildlife habitats. On Monday the state Senate approved a bill to scale back restrictions on these landfills. Some say it will hurt the environment and others say we have no other choice.
Some are concerned the beautiful mountains of North Carolina could soon give way to mountains of trash and debris. Hartwell Carson works with the Western North Carolina Alliance and says, "Eliminating environmental protection opens the door for anything you want."
Yesterday the Senate approved a bill aimed at easing restrictions on landfills, allowing them to be located within 15-hundred feet of wildlife refuges, state parks, and game lands. Right now they must remain 5 miles from refuges, two miles from state parks and one mile from game lands. Environmentalists say the new law would devastate our ecosystem and trash the local economy.
Carson says, "The environment is a significant economic generator in this area, I mean people love to fish our rivers, they love to swim our rivers, they love to visit our national forests so those are all very much connected."
Lawmakers say there's no other choice. With current restrictions making it nearly impossible to build new landfills and with consumers continuing to create more waste, all that trash has to go somewhere.
Jerry Mears runs the Buncombe County landfill and says, "Most of the landfills that were sited around 15 years ago, they're going to be running out of space in the next 15, 20, 25 years so there's going to be a need for landfill space."
Although Mears supports the new bill he's also torn about how this could affect future generations, saying, "We need to protect our mountains and our environment for those kids coming up." Mears admits it’s difficult to support the bill and the environment at the same time adding, "It is, it's very tough."
As long as landfills continue to grow so will concerns on both sides. While Carson says, "I'm absolutely concerned" Mears warns, "We need to recycle, reduce, reuse."
The state House still has to review this bill before it becomes law. The Buncombe County landfill is 600 acres and has about 20 more years before it needs to expand or be moved to another location.