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New Charleston County recycling center construction hits snag over site stability

October 10, 2017 GMT

Construction of the new Charleston County recycling center is on hold and could be delayed up to six months to fix a problem with the land where the facility is being built.

The building contractor, Mashburn Construction, notified the county that it had concerns about the stability of the soil at the site. Moving forward with the $24 million project could lead to cracks in the foundation if the soil beneath it settles, officials said.

Work on the 57,000-square-foot recycling center on Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston began in May. Officials said at the groundbreaking ceremony it would take about a year to finish construction.

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The county, an environmental consultant and the builder are collaborating on a solution to the soil stability issue. Details of the possible fix, such as how much it will cost and who will pay for it are still being negotiated, said Councilman Dickie Schweers.

The issue was first mentioned publicly at a meeting Thursday of council’s Environmental Management Committee when Chairman Brantley Moody said an executive session was necessary to discuss the site for the new recycling center. Council members then gathered for an hour behind closed doors.

“There is a question of the stability of the land. That question needs to be resolved before we go forward,” Council Chairman Vic Rawl said afterward in an interview.

The project is a replacement for the Romney Street recycling center which closed two years ago because of escalating costs, old technology, a weak market for processed recyclables and problems finding a contractor to run the operation.

Since the closing of Romney Street, the county has been shipping truckloads of recyclables to Horry County at an annual cost of $1.4 million for processing at a county facility there.

The delay in construction of the new recycling center has prompted internal county discussions about options such as ending the shipments to Horry, limiting recycling to paper and cardboard, and temporarily reopening the Romney Street facility.

The county spent $2.9 million to purchase the 22-acre site for its new recycling center from RCRM Family Limited Partnership of Blackville. Before the sale, the owner and an environmental consultant did a cleanup of the property that included excavating about 35,000 cubic yards of petroleum-impacted soil, which was replaced with fill dirt, according to a copy of a voluntary cleanup contract posted online.

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An asphalt plant was located on the site, which is bounded by two landfills.

A year ago, some council members said they wanted assurances that contaminated soils wouldn’t be an issue at the Palmetto Commerce Parkway site.

West Ashley residents opposed the county’s first choice for a recycling center on land adjacent to the Bees Ferry landfill. Then, residents in the North Charleston neighborhoods of Pepperhill and Colony North also objected to having a recycling center built nearby.

The new recycling center will have five times the capacity of the old one, which will improve the county’s system of collecting recyclables curbside and at convenience centers. It will have state-of-the-art processing equipment, including optical sorting machines, which will produce high-quality recycled material for sale and reduce labor costs. The hope is to eventually create a partnership with Berkeley and Dorchester counties to allow their recyclable material to be processed at the new facility.

Charleston County handles 360,000 tons of garbage annually. About 30 percent of it is recycled, which reduces the amount of trash buried at landfills in West Ashley and Dorchester County.