EDITORIAL: Lower Windsor Township's landfill dilemma

York Dispatch Editorial Board
With residents up in arms over a proposed expansion of Modern Landfill, Lower Windsor Township Board of Supervisors has tabled a vote on the updated host agreement until January.
Thursday, December 19, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

In Lower Windsor Township, everyone is talking about trash.

For most of us, trash isn't an everyday concern. Put the trash in the trash can, put the can by the curb, take the can back in. Repeat.

But Lower Windsor Township, along with Windsor Township, is home to Modern Landfill, which is where Republic Services stashes away a lot of trash. About 5,000 tons every day. 

Yes, 10 million pounds of trash. Every day. 

Modern Landfill sits on 230 acres, and looking ahead, it's going to fill up sometime, possibly as soon as 2025. So Republic Services, which owns the landfill, is looking to expand the site eastward, taking more land in Lower Windsor Township.

The eastward expansion would sit within the area bordered by East Prospect Road to the north, Barcroft Road to the east, Gun Club Road to the south and Mount Pisgah Road to the west. Republic already owns about 200 acres of the land in the proposed expansion area, but the company doesn't know exactly how many acres the expansion would cover.

Modern Landfill, owned by Republic Services, in Windsor Township, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The area is in an agricultural zone, so the township would either have to allow a zoning variance or amend its zoning map to allow industrial use in that area. 

That has some residents upset. And who can blame them? No one wants to live beside a growing landfill. 

That's why Republic is sweetening the deal.

A new agreement with the township would include an increase in how much the business pays the township for each ton of trash, rising from 97 cents per ton for the current landfill to $1.35 per ton for the extension, whenever it goes into use; a flat payment of $250,000 to the township; free trash and recycling collection and disposal for township residents; use of a street sweeper; funds for a traffic light and bridge maintenance and more.

Altogether, Republic Services would be paying Lower Windsor Township $2.1 million a year, an increase from the $1.2 million the township currently receives.

But the agreement also includes a clause that doesn't allow the township to oppose the landfill's expansion. And that has raised the ire of some neighbors.

"You are abrogating the rights of all the people in this township," said Chuck Van De Water, a resident who lives on East Prospect Road. "You're giving the township away. That is a travesty."

The supervisors are upfront about why they are considering the deal: It's about the money, which would stop coming in if the current landfill space fills up and an extension isn't approved. 

"I would challenge anyone here to come up with an idea of how we can make up for that $1.2 million that we’ll be receiving this year another way," board chairman Barry Miller said during a Dec. 12 meeting.

Modern Landfill, owned by Republic Services, in Windsor Township, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo.

After 60 people attended that meeting, the board decided to hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, to discuss the proposed agreement, and a representative from Republic Services will be there.

We hope that the residents and the company come to an agreement. After all, the rest of the county will need the space in that expansion soon enough. 

Which raises a point that came up in the December meeting, when Tim O'Donnell, general manager of the landfill, was asked what he would do to prevent the landfill from needing another expansion if the new area were to fill up.

The best way to prevent another expansion would be for all of us to collectively stop generating waste, O'Donnell said.

"Our job is to provide a service that, as a society, we all need," he said. "When society decides we’re not going to create waste anymore, then landfills will go away."

That's something we can all get behind: Create less waste, recycle and reuse more, and we can stop needing to expand landfills.