A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 September 12, 1991


The 4 year war between the state and its citizens to site a commercial hazardous waste incinerator.

51,500 tpy rotary kiln incinerator with a 99.99% destruction recovery efficiency

15,000 tons per year solvent distillation and recovery unit

10,000 tons per year of ash and “still bottoms” to be landfilled

In December 1989 North Carolina officially entered into a five-state regional agreement to assure disposal capacity for hazardous wastes generated within its own borders and 4 other states: Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. North Carolina volunteered to build a hazardous waste incinerator as its contribution to the 5-state regional agreement. The regional agreement had a deadline of December 31, 1990, for North Carolina to have a permit application in place for the siting of the incinerator. North Carolina was unable to secure a site to build the incinerator because of the tenacious citizen opposition it faced in every county selected. Since 1987, twenty counties in NC defeated proposals to site a commercial hazardous waste incinerator. The state was then expelled from the regional compact at the end of 1990. Though expelled from the 5-state regional agreement, ThermalKEM who had secured the state contract to build the incinerator began to use its own initiative. The strong, united and creative opposition that North Carolina officials faced from its residents coalesced in 1988 when Lee County residents, after defeating the proposal for their county, decided to share the information it had gathered with other potential victim counties. That’s when NC Warn (Waste Awareness and Reduction Network) began its organizational work. NC Warn is a no-deals, no compromise, what-ever-it-takes (within the law) network of dedicated citizens whose goal is to attain a toxic free environment through waste and toxic use reduction by industries.

1987: DAVIDSON COUNTY LISTED IN THE GUINESS BOOK OF RECORDS FOR HAVING 15,000 PEOPLE SHOW UP FOR A PUBLIC HEARING - the most public participation at a public hearing in the history of the U.S. This hearing never took place because of the record turn out of residents. The state’s Hazardous Waste Treatment Commission had to be escorted out of the county by the highway patrol for their own safety. The Commission never came back.

1988: LEE COUNTY. A LARGE CHICKEN PROCESSING PLANT, GOLD KIST, THREATENED TO SUE THE STATE OF NC FOR NOT INFORMING THEM OF THE PROPOSED INCINERATOR. Gold Kist held groundbreaking ceremonies for its new processing plant in Lee County six months before the state announced its intention to site a commercial hazardous waste incinerator in Lee County. Gold Kist stopped the bulldozers at their plant site and threatened to sue the state to recover their expenses and to move out of the state if the incinerator was built. Lee County residents joined with neighboring Chatham county residents. They were able to get a new law in place in the General Assembly which stated that the Hazardous Waste Management Commission could not site the facility in any but a volunteer county. This law lasted one year. Another provision they got into the law was that in order to site the facility there must be a four-lane highway accessible to the site, with the highway connected to an interstate. Lee County does not have a four lane highway. Citizens went to the State Legislature on a daily basis. They initiated an “orange ribbon” campaign. Every resident of the county that was opposed to the incinerator placed an orange ribbon around their rural mailbox or front lawn tree for their local politicians to see. The citizens held three public meetings which went from 200 to 300 to 500 people. The citizens defeated the proposal in five weeks. Billie Elmore lived in Lee County, and went on to organize NC Warn.

1989-1990: MONTGOMERY AND RICHMOND COUNTIES. At this point there was a flurry of private initiatives where private developers and Realtors were running around the central part of NC taking out land options on large tracts of land for possible incinerator sites. On the Montgomery/Richmond county line an 1,800 acre site was secured with a land option as the site for the incinerator. Citizen opposition was fierce. Within a month of this becoming public 2,400 people attended a citizen meeting at the Biscoe high school auditorium. The landowner, a large chicken farmer, who sold the option on the 1,800-acre parcel consulted with opponents, and after learning that Gold Kist, another large chicken processor, threatened to move out of the state if Lee County had accepted the incinerator, pulled out of the land option at great personal cost. That defeated that proposal.

1990: GRANVILLE COUNTY. RESIDENT SELLS 9,000 SHARES TO A 48 ACRE PARCEL THAT WAS IN THE HEART OF THE 350 ACRES THE STATE SITED TO BUILD THE INCINERATOR. lst siting proposal. Granville County Attorney, John Pike, bought the 48 acre parcel for $70,000, with money borrowed from the Adams Tobacco Co. The 48-acre parcel was located in the heart of the 350-acre state sited land. Afraid the state would find a way of blocking the selling of shares, Pike got 200 people with NC Warn’s help, within 24 hours, to file their property shares at the courthouse. Later, 9,000 shares were sold at $5 each. Tobacco buyers who came to the area from SE Asian countries, bought shares. The Russian Dance Troupe which came to town bought shares. Many of the shares were bought for grandchildren. Pike reasoned that if the state condemned the land, and if the parents or guardians of the children were unwilling to have the state take the land, the state would have to appoint a guardian to make a decision. The $70,000 loan was paid off in 3 weeks! The rest of the money is in escrow. Plans for the 48-acre parcel are to turn the land into an environmental park or wildlife sanctuary. In either case this land will never be resold in the history of the world as the legal aspects of all of the owners will never be untangled. 2nd siting proposal. The State then offered state land in Granville county, under the control of the Agriculture Department. There are several state institutions within a mile of the proposed site: a correctional institution, psychiatric hospital and a large state facility for severely and profoundly retarded. In order for the state’s Hazardous Waste Management Commission to get access to this state land there had to be a transfer from the Agriculture Department to the Department of Commerce. By NC law, the Council of State had to vote for a transfer of state lands between departments. Billie Elmore of NC Warn prepared an analyses of the regional capacity assurance plans and found that of the five states, there were three times more capacity in place than was needed by industries in the 5 states. Billie charged collusion between EPA, the five states and the waste management industry. In December 1990 the Council of State (which includes the Governor, Lt. Gov., Secretaries of State, Treasury and Commerce; Commissioners of Agriculture, Labor and Insurance, State Superintendent of Public Schools, and the Attorney General) voted 8-2 to deny the transfer of the land. Governor Jim Martin and Lt. Governor Jim Gardner were the two who voted for the transfer. NC Warn’s report was crucial. Granville was now free from the proposal.

1990: ROWAN & IREDELL COUNTIES - RAISED OVER 1/3 MILLION DOLLARS IN THEIR FIGHT. 5,000 PEOPLE JOINED THE PARADE AGAINST THE INCINERATOR. The County Commissioners, Chamber of Commerce, Medical Society, District Attorneys, blue collar workers and farmers were solidly united to oppose the hazardous waste incinerator. Rowan and Iredell are the major dairy counties in NC. 67 dairy farms are within a 10-mile radius of the proposed incinerator site. The total milk produced in 1989 from these farms was 109,007,000 pounds at a value of $16,821,000. The milk from these farms is sold in NC, SC, VA, TN and GA. The Rowan Iredell Citizens for a Clean Environment (RICCE) opened an office in Statesville and worked endless hours manning telephones, printing T-shirts, planning meetings, talks and debates; running full page ads and distributing educational information. RICCE raised $1/3 million to stop the incinerator. Dr. Mark Guerra, the local doctor for Lenoir, Caldwell County, spoke to the medical community in Statesville to inform them of the health problems his community suffered from the notorious Caldwell Systems hazardous waste incinerator (See Waste Not #163). Residents who lived near the ThermalKEM haz. waste incinerator in Rock Hill, SC, came up to Iredell County to tell what it was like to live next to a haz. waste incinerator as did the residents who lived near Carolina Solite, which burns hazardous waste for fuel. With the combination of total resident and political opposition coupled with 38 lawsuits, the state moved on to find another more willing county.

For more information contact:

Billie Elmore, NC WARN, 5301 Rolling Hill Road, Sanford, NC 27330. Tel: 919-774-9566.

WASTE NOT # 164 A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US45; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.