January 4, 2013

Horry County Solid Waste Authority wins court battle over trash regulation

The U.S. District Court sided with Horry County and the county’s Solid Waste Authority over its trash regulation ordinance.

The U.S. District Court sided with Horry County and the county’s Solid Waste Authority over its trash regulation ordinance.

In a ruling issued Thursday, the court upheld the county’s ordinance and dismissed a lawsuit filed by private Marion County garbage haulers.

“We’ve made more progress in the next step. We’ll see what comes next,” said Mike Bessant, SWA governmental affairs director.

The S.C. Supreme Court previously upheld the county’s controversial ordinance.

Sandlands C&D and Express Disposal Services filed suit in answer to the county’s 2009 regulation law, which requires county trash to only be dumped in the SWA landfill or another facility chosen by the SWA.

Horry County is the only county in the state with such an ordinance and the private industry said that it creates a monopoly.

“This court is not unsympathetic to the plight of the plaintiffs in connection with the claims raised in this case,” the U.S. District Court order read.

Bessant said Sandlands has the right to appeal the decision to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, but doesn’t know if that will happen.

A phone number for Sandlands and Express general manager John Abercrombie was disconnected. Employees at the garbage hauler directed media calls to the Camden law firm of Savage, Royall & Sheheen LLP and a message left seeking comment was not returned by Friday evening.

Tom Mullikin, with the Mullikin Law Firm in Camden, said he is co-counsel for the Sandlands case and said he wasn’t in a position to say whether an appeal would be filed until all parties had a chance to review the order.

“We were disappointed in the judge’s decision,” Mullikin said.

Abercrombie said in 2011 that 70 percent of his waste stream was determined to be available in Horry County when his landfill was implemented over 10 years ago and its business plan was arranged around that waste stream.

By late May of 2011, Abercrombie said he had to lay off 10 of his 22 employees and saw 70 percent of his revenue stream cut since Horry’s trash regulation went into effect.

Abercrombie said at the time their case was based around the county creating a conflict in regulating intrastate commerce.

The county argued that the regulation ordinance was necessary to protect it and its citizens because disposal of solid waste at out-of-county landfills could expose Horry County to liability for contamination that might occur, court records stated.

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