For 24 years, Bill Bland has lived on a small street near the border of North Carolina and Virginia with just 18 homes and he says for about half that time, he and his neighbors have been fighting against the proposed Black Bear landfill in Camden County, which would be built less than 1000 feet from his front door.
“A lot of noise, a lot of seagulls, and a lot of smell,” said Bland.
The plan for the landfill has been put on hold for years, partly because of strict laws adopted by North Carolina in 2007, barring dumps from being built near state and national parks.
The proposed landfill is within one mile of the Dismal Swamp—but those regulations are on the verge of being tossed out, with a new bill coming out of Raleigh, already passed by the state senate.
It would allow landfills within 1500 feet of wildlife refuges, while also relaxing environmental standards at the same time.
“I can’t think of anything worse to put in our watershed than a gigantic landfill,” said Bland.
That’s why it’s not only residents who are fighting back.
The City of Chesapeake now has their entire executive leadership team in Raleigh, lobbying against the bill.
They say less regulation would clear the path for landfills like Black Bear.
With their expansion of Dominion Boulevard, they don’t want the landfill to scare away new business on the US-17 corridor.
Chesapeake’s city limits are just 1500 feet away from the landfill’s property line, and they are worried contaminated ground water would dump right into the Northwest River water shed, the main source of drinking water for the city.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service even came out against the project. They manage the Dismal Swamp.
Refuge directors say they are worried about the potential for black bears to cause a safety hazard for drivers, as they try to cross Route 17 to get a free meal at the dump.
Even the Navy says they have concerns about the project, with dump trucks from the landfill interfering with radio communications at nearby bases like Northwest Annex.
Then, there are the impacts to Camden County.
“This is not going to bring jobs to Camden County, it’s going to chase jobs out of Camden County, it’s going to chase homeowners out of Camden County,” said Bland.
Camden County actually held a special called session of the Board of Commissioners Monday night, and voted to send a breach of contract letter to Waste Industries, the owner of the proposed landfill site.
County Manager Mike Renshaw says Camden no longer wants the project to go forward as stated in their 2007 contract with the company.
The county says their first economic priority right now is the Camden Eco-Industrial Park, which backs up to the landfill, and making sure its launch is a success.
When we called Waste Industries for comment, they told NewsChannel 3 there are still many hurdles they would have to cross to build Black Bear, even if the new law passes in North Carolina.
First they would have to look at the bill, and see if they still could build under their latest proposal–then they would contact Camden County to see what their options are for the land because anything they do would be discussed with the county first.
They also say the City of Chesapeake sued them in the past, and would bring the lawsuit back if they started up operations again.
Right now, Waste Industries tells us they have no plans to build Black Bear anytime soon but can’t rule out any future possibilities to recoup the millions they have invested.
Now, it’s up to the North Carolina House of Representatives, because if they pass this bill, it could open the door for Waste Industries in the future.