March 1, 2016

Why should we trust Republic now?

When’s the last time you took a roller-coaster ride?
Up, down, up, down and twist sideways.
Oops, I think I’m going to throw up.
Remember those feelings?  That’s how I feel right now about this threatening coal-ash dumping.  Since I learned Republic Services was plotting to sneak a rail-spur application past the people of Wayne County, it’s been an emotional roller-coaster ride.  
I have never seen this many worry lines on hometown faces.  Even school-age children are asking how to help stop the dreaded trainloads of toxic coal ash.  Folks, we have a crisis.  It’s time to plumb the depths of our minds, souls and resources to galvanize our resolve to stand up against Republic’s poisonous scheme to pollute our future.  The risk is too great for any amount of money.
Some days, I sense emotions are higher than high.  Pure fear and determination underscore the battle cry.  Other days, spirits plummet, just like a roller-coaster car rocketing out of the clouds and into an amusement-park canyon. If we plan to keep Republic from turning our community into an environmental prostitute, we might throw up in the tussle.  But we cannot give up. 
Republic chose one of its unknown entities, Central Virginia Properties LLC, to seek the Corps of Engineers permit to destroy wetlands for the sake of a mile-long rail spur.  The proposed infrastructure will accommodate a 100-car train loaded with municipal garbage from the likes of New York City or—worse—100 cars brimming with toxic coal ash.
Just as vivid as the roller-coaster memories are Sunday school lessons about the importance of trust.   One of my favorite illustrations is from Luke 16:10 (NIV): “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
Eleven years ago, our leaders trusted Republic with its proposed amendments to the waste management agreement.  The April 19, 2005, authority minutes state: “John Simmons explained that it has been ten years since the agreement between Solid Waste Authority, Republic and Wayne County Commissioners.  Mr. Simmons says just some cleaning up, deleting clutter and streamlining has been done to the agreement and that basically nothing has changed.”
Now, you tell me.  Where’s the truth in “basically nothing has changed?”  We may have been snake-oil snookered in 2005, but nothing today suggests we trust Republic until—get this—2054.  That’s how long the new “cleaning-up” contract binds our county.  “Deleting clutter,” baloney!  The “streamlining” is really “railroading,” as in Republic’s we-hope-you-don’t-notice plan to pollute our community with as many as 100 railcars of coal ash per day. 
And then there’s Republic’s infamous, don’t-tell-anybody-but-the-EPD leakage of poisonous metals into our soil and groundwater several years ago.  We still wouldn’t have known about it if a reporter hadn’t dug through 1,000 pages of EPD reports.  Thanks to Rep. Bill Werkheiser, a law is in the making to require public notice of future spill/leak mishaps.  Next, wouldn’t it be great if there could be a law to prohibit out-of-state coal ash from being dumped in Georgia?
While we were “trusting” Republic, it was adding another 2,000 acres to its landfill holdings.  Add to that the scheme to build a railyard and bring coal ash from anywhere in the country.  Until recently, most people in Wayne County—including our leadership—were clueless about the dangers of coal ash.  Now, we know.  Now, we have a chance to fight back.
Remember this old joke?  “Do you know the difference between love and herpes?  Herpes is forever.”  Republic “loves” Wayne County enough to inflict us with coal-ash herpesforever.
Excuse me.
I think I am going to throw up.