Council OKs zoning for land for incinerator despite heated opposition

WINNSBORO – A Fairfield County incinerator proposal remains a hot topic between Winnsboro area residents and county leaders.

Over the objections of residence in attendance, Fairfield County Council voted 5-2 Monday night to rezone 11 acres off Old Airport Road as part of a plan to replace a wood chipper with an incinerator.

Council members Moses Bell and Mikel Trapp voted against the rezoning.

Those voting in the majority said the incinerator represented the cheapest and most environmentally viable option. They also said the rezoning vote doesn’t mean the incinerator is automatically a done deal.

Others weren’t convinced.

Shirley Seibles, an opponent of the incinerator, questioned whether it really falls outside a 500-foot buffer zone with residents’ homes. She said true distance is closer to 387 feet.

“It is not 500 feet unless it goes into someone else’s property,” she said. “We think that’s a matter of environmental concern.”

William Ott, an engineer with Davis and Floyd, Inc. of North Charleston, said measurements show the incinerator does lie at least 500 feet from the nearest home.

Ott added that state and federal regulators would closely monitor the incinerator, especially in the early months, to ensure it complies with regulations. He said environmental impacts on residents would be minor to nonexistent.

“These same pollutants are emitted out of your car,” Ott said. “These standards are set so that they will not be a hazard or health concern to the community.”

Seibles and others pressed the council to consider acquiring property located behind the site and locating the incinerator there, further shielding residents from its impacts.

“We are asking again you not put our property in jeopardy by voting for this air burner,” Seibles said. “Are you financially ready to accept the liability that will come from the citizens of Airport Road and the surrounding area for health concerns that may come, that will come, from being exposed to these kind of carcinogens?”

County leaders, however, said acquiring the eight acres wouldn’t be economically feasible.

“I really don’t want to be a part of something that’s going to add to their illness. Have we looked at a plan B?” Councilman Clarence Gilbert asked.

“Your concerns are valid. We should have a plan B, we do not have at this point,” County Administrator Jason Taylor answered. “It’s expensive to do that.”

Councilwoman Bertha Goins didn’t think purchasing the property was even possible since it’s owned by Dominion Energy, which acquired the eight-acre parcel after acquiring SCANA.

“My understanding is the county does not own that property,” Goins said. “The previous contract has expired. What they allow to go into that particular area will not be up to us.”

Council members were originally set to approve third reading on June 24, but deferred the matter so residents and elected officials could tour a similar, but substantially larger incinerator in Richland County.

Residents and opposing council members said the Richland County incinerator emitted large amounts of smoke, affirming their opposition to the Fairfield County incinerator.

“The one in Richland County was old and smoking from everywhere,” Bell said.

Ott said the Fairfield County incinerator would limit smoke emissions.

“The one in Richland County was overloaded. That’s going to cause smoke to release,” Ott replied, noting that with the rezoning, the county would still need to obtain air quality and solid waste permits, offering residents further opportunities for public comment.

Ridgeway resident Randy Bright said just because a facility is permitted doesn’t mean it’s right for the community.

“When it comes to the environment, even though you get a permit, you’ve got to be doubly sure that that’s correct,” Bright said. “How many EPA things have been approved in the past and turned out to not be so good?

“Let’s not rush to a site, let’s pick a site that won’t bother anybody.”

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