The nation's largest waste disposal firm has abandoned plans to build a hazardous-waste landfill in North Carolina, citing the "political, social and economic climate" in the state.
The decision, confirmed this week by Chemical Waste Management Inc. of Oak Brook, Ill., ends a bitter controversy over a proposal to build the landfill in a rural area of Anson County, near the state's southern border. Citizens in Anson County and across the border in Cheraw, S.C., had fought the proposed landfill for more than a year, contending that the site posed a danger to the Pee Dee River, a major source of drinking water.
Chemical Waste Management spokesman Don Reddicliffe said the firm has "dropped any plans to pursue" the Anson County site. He said the firm also has abandoned its appeal of the state's denial of a permit to reopen a hazardous-waste incinerating facility near Greensboro, and that any other plans for facilities in the state "are in abeyance."
While the fears expressed by Carolinians were similar to those that surround proposals for hazardous-waste facilities across the nation, the Anson County case became a kind of informal referendum on the adequacy of new federal regulations governing hazardous-waste landfills.
Last December, North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt declared a moratorium on hazardous-waste landfills in his state, saying that the federal rules are not stringent enough to protect North Carolinians.
The legislature now is struggling to pass its own regulations. The confusing and emotional process is complicated by a state law that prohibits North Carolina rules from being stricter than federal ones.
Hunt has thrown his support behind a bill that would forbid the disposal of certain highly toxic wastes and place a limit on the allowable concentration of others. The bill also would continue the landfill moratorium until Jan. 1, 1985.
In Anson County, jubilant citizens plan to celebrate tonight, but a leader of the landfill opponents conceded that their fight is not over.
"We're celebrating, but we still have a long way to go," said Landon Scarborough, a Wadesboro businessman who heads Citizens Against Chemical Toxins in Underground Storage (CACTUS). "We're in no way giving up the fight to see that North Carolina comes up with the proper regulations to govern these sites."