A group of us are gathered at the Franklin Street post office in Chapel Hill on a warm afternoon, here to protest the proposed expansion of the Eubanks Road Landfill. It’s not the kind of thing I normally do. I’m like a lot of people who rest on the assumption that Chapel Hill, being a liberal, progressive town, has its citizens’ best interests at heart. Right?
“But what kind of government,” I think, “risks people’s well-being with a huge dump so close to the center of town?” We head down the street, calling out slogans, on the way to Town Hall.
The landfill is located close to I-40, within convenient dumping distance of the town and also of UNC, which deposits trash there. The site was first opened in 1972 when the town of Chapel Hill bought a large piece of land next to property owned by the Nunn family. The Nunns had maintained their property for more than 100 years, a testament to their fundamental values and fortitude. However, it’s now clear to Irving Nunn, grandson of the first Nunn to own the land, and many others that the town of Chapel Hill is engaging in dubious disposal practices and the creation of an ever-widening circle of property devaluation. According to Nunn, his family has received no compensation from 28 years of tipping fees, nor any acknowledgment of the slow erosion of their and their neighbors’ quality of life.
The dump was originally scheduled to be closed eight years ago. Recently, dangerous chemicals have been detected in Gertrude Nunn’s (Irving’s mother’s) well. If the proposed expansion is voted in, dumping will continue at a rate of 96,000 tons a year. And that doesn’t include demolition, construction and other debris.
Our group moves down the street with our police escort, the focus of curious onlookers, many of whom have probably never heard of the Eubanks Road Landfill.
But you never know when something will pop up in your own backyard. There’s a special-use permit in the works to accommodate the construction of a new trash-handling facility in an area where a lot of expensive new homes are being built. Do these people know what Orange County and the town of Chapel Hill have in store for them? At a recent town meeting, some residents complained about having to carry their trash to the curb. They wondered why the sanitation crews couldn’t come down the driveways to get their trash. They think its curbside appearance is unsightly. How would they like, say, 96,000 tons of it next door?