Update: County Board Ponders Breaking Expensive Waste Monopoly

BY BUDDY NEVINS

The county’s Resource Recovery Board on Thursday reversed itself and agreed to study breaking Waste Management multi-million dollar trash monopoly in Broward.

The study will examine whether it is cost effective to open the Southwest Broward landfill to all types of trash.  It currently accepts construction debris, bulk and vegetative waste.

The idea is that the county-owned site would provide competition to Waste Management.

The board  will spend approximately $100,000 for the study and Ron Greenstein, the Board’s executive director, hopes to have some results by June.

The Board vote was unanimous. It came just a day after Browardbeat.com post (below) on how the same Board last month had shut the door on competition for our trash dollars.

Chair Ilene Lieberman, who leads the board of city and county officials and was against doing the study, was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

The study was supported by solid waste professionals from city halls throughout Broward.

Last month with Lieberman holding the gavel, the Board voted 5-2 against the study.

On Thursday Greenstein along with Sunrise Commissioner Joey Scuotto and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler were outspoken in their belief that the county needed to at least examine an alternative to Waste Management.

See my earlier post below:

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Most Americans agree:  Competition is good and monopolies are bad.

Competition usually produces lower costs and innovation.  Monopolies generate higher costs, waste and lethargy.

So why is an obscure county group intent on continuing Waste Management’s monopoly over Broward’s trash disposal?

The county’s Resource Recovery Board late last month refused to study whether an already existing county-owned landfill in Southwest Broward could provide meaningful competition to Waste Management.

The vote effectively continues the monopoly that Waste Management has held over our garbage for more than two decades.  That monopoly is why Broward has among the highest disposal rates in South Florida, according to industry statistics.

Waste Management now can charge high rates as long as they undercut by pennies the cost of hauling the garbage to another county.  The reason is that they have Broward’s only operating landfill.

With the rising cost of fuel, hauling trash to another county will become even less of an option in the future.

Landfills are offensive, but necessary for the foreseeable future. Even if every piece of garbage is sifted for recyclables, there is waste left that cannot be reused.  It must be placed in a landfill or burned for energy, which creates ash that must be landfilled.

The county-owned landfill is on U. S. 27, closer to alligators than homes. It already accepts some types of trash.

Opening the county landfill to all types of trash would provide competition, which is the American way to create a better deal for consumers.

The Board wouldn’t even study expanding the use of  the site!

Board Chair Ilene Lieberman called such a study “quite an additional cost to the county” – about $100,000.

Sunrise Commissioner Joey Scuotto has a different view.

Scuotto wants to explore reopening the county landfill to household and commercial waste.  It is already processing vegetation and construction debris.

He warns that without competition, “we’re stuck with a (Waste Mangement) rate and nowhere to go.”

The county’s landfill already has an -up-to-date permit for household and commercial waste disposal. Industry insiders say a simple modification of the operational plan would be all that is necessary to begin accepting all waste and offering real competition to Waste Management.

Competition is what City Manager John Stunson of Oakland Park was hoping for when he wrote the Board this week.  He calling for the Board to reverse its early vote and examine opening the county land fill to all waste.

“Determining the cost of operation of the landfill would appear to be an integral component of fairly pricing the cost of solid waste disposal in an environment lacking competition,” Stunson wrote.

The Board can change its mind and should.  Members need to come to their senses and break the hold that Waste Management has over this county

Taxpayers have heard a lot of talk about reform from our esteemed Broward office holders this year.

Is it reform to continue Waste Management’s 20-year monopoly on waste disposal?

I don’t think so.



23 Responses to “Update: County Board Ponders Breaking Expensive Waste Monopoly”

  1. No Brainer says:

    It’s very easy to figure out why they don’t want to allow competition.

    Check out the lawsuit filed by S.S.T. Tire Service, Inc. against Waste Management, Inc. of Florida

  2. Floridan says:

    Here’s an idea – how about Oakland Park and Sunrise organize other municipalities to pony up the 100 grand for the study?

  3. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Buddy,

    There is solid reason for concern. In 1988 the county opened the SW Regional Landfill on US 27 near what is today Western Pembroke Pines. A huge mountain of dried trash marks the spot where, for three years until 1991, much of our county’s garbage was dumped and buried under ground. The proximity of it to the Everglades apparently was less of a concern then than it should have been and is today.

    That situation stopped because 1991 is when the county’s resource recovery interlocal agreement (the ILA) went into effect. That agreement was for 20 years and it expires this August. Attempts to get the ILA renewed have largely fallen short of success and this is causing an increasing sense of panic in the community.

    Some 22 cities — Pembroke Pines not among them — joined onto the ILA back in 1991. Under the agreement, the county authorized the creation of two incinerators to accept residential waste, burn and convert it to energy which it then sells to FPL to offset the cost of participation in the agreement.

    The county owned the land for the incinerators. The residents would pay for the cost of building the incinerators.

    But somehow, the contract reads that Waste Management — who competitively earned the right to run these incineration plants — OWNS the actual incinerators.

    They own the buildings, on county land, that we as residents paid for. When you ask “how did THAT happen?” you get no clear answers. Perhaps that answer is also buried under a mountain some 20 years later.

    Yet there begins the dilemma.

    We cannot bring in anyone else to run those plants. Broward is married to one company because it gave them ownership of buildings our county dollars built. It is the very monopoly that you describe. Don’t blame Waste Management for that. They were put in that position. There’s no excuse for them owning an incineration plant that we the people paid for. It was given to them and that’s why they hold that monopoly.

    Well, here we are 20 years later and the ILA is up for renewal. However, participating cities are choking on Waste’s price tag renew. Cities say it’s way too expensive.

    Discussions between the parties has not made a dent in the stalemate. Waste won’t budge and cities won’t renew. A crisis is building. Both sides seem to be waiting to see who flinches first.

    County leaders have not been able to fix the problem. Cities have become more emboldened to saying no, as they should. Companies seeing limited options are holding their ground to protect their profit margins.

    Everybody has an angle.

    The great thing about the ILA is it closed the SW Regional Landfill. That allowed West Pines, Weston, parts of SW Ranches and all of Western Miramar to develop. Thousands of homes have since been built there — possibly 25% of Broward now lives in that area. None of that possible without the closing of that smelly dump.

    Whatever the outcome of the ILA, don’t even think that reopening the dump is a viable option. We will forever keep that from happening. The impact to our western communities would be impossible to bear. Fair warning has been issued — govern yourselves accordingly.

    Even though this landfill has over 65 years of useful life left in it. Even if the county was to reapply for an expired residential permit to begin dumping there again. Even if our own county officials want to drag their feet and not say that they oppose that possibility. We oppose it and we will fight it.

    Too many of our families are worried that the county’s failure to produce a renewed ILA will force them to reopen this dump. I have written our county commissioner asking her if she will make a statement opposing the reopening of the dump. She promised to study the issue but to date has not taken a position. I suspect she may soon.

    Our opposition is clearly stated. Still, we wonder what the future of the dump might be.

    Some are suggesting that the creation of independently operating transfer stations might be the answer.

    Clean, efficient, Green and environmentally safe, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has been pushing cities and counties nationwide to recycle and dispose of their trash in this manner, reducing our long term dependence on landfills. Pembroke Pines has had a transfer station operating in our city for about 20 years. It’s located on Pembroke Road and 208th Avenue. The operation is so clean and well run, overwhelmingly residents out here don’t even know it’s there. There is no smell, no health risk, and it takes in over a million tons of garbage each year.

    Transfer stations could offer the kind of competition that any garbage company in a monopoly position would hate to see. To be sure, the waste haulers think so and that’s why they and their operatives are fueling the most amazing misinformation propaganda email campaign I’ve ever seen, trying to mislead and scare residents into thinking transfer stations are something other than what they truly are.

    Waste companies seeking to protect their profits see transfer stations as the game changer, causing them to reduce their prices for ILA renewal. They don’t like the idea of competition.

    A recent attempt to site a transfer station in West Pines was pulled off the table. There have been other examples of failed attempts elsewhere. Some are calling this a victory for private waste company propaganda. Waste companies have become pretty good at email campaigns to kill the kind of competition independent transfer stations present for them. They call transfer stations unsafe and smelly and property value killers. Yet they don’t disclose that they run transfer stations for a living, and run them so they are none of these things. It’s corporate warfare using resident emotions ans bullets. They’ve become good at it.

    With respect to my colleagues in other cities and at the county, the reopening of the SW Regional Landfill is no solution to our waste problems and will result in serious legal challenges that will delay — no matter the cost I promise you — that event for years. Best to look at other options for competition, like the intelligent use of transfer stations.

    I mentioned before that everybody’s got an angle. Here’s mine.

    They are going to have to scrape my broken, bloodied body off the pavement before the first garbage truck filled with residential waste comes to the SW Regional Landfill to begin dumping again. And I won’t be the only one blocking the way. I will bring hundreds if not thousands of my residents with me. We will camp out there for weeks if we have to. It will not happen.

    So our county officials can drag their feet all they want, cities can delay all they want, companies can protect their profits all they want. But that dump will not reopen. Find another solution.

    Angelo

    FROM BUDDY:

    The landfill has 52 lined acres for all types of garbage disposal currently permitted. The site has a total of 588 acres, with 263 designated for waste disposal.

    The land could currently be used for all types of disposal, including a waste to electric plant…and there is little Pembroke Pines could do about it without suing the owners of the land.

  4. Typical says:

    Angelo Castillo has the typical response of a small minded city politician– not in my back yard. He is concerned about his small little neighborhood and not the whole picture. Angelo, are you concerned about the thousands in Coconut Creek or in Davie near waste facilities now? That was rhetorical since I know the answer.

  5. Resident says:

    Thanks Angelo and Buddy. Didn’t know about that County Landfill was available. Great idea.

    If it is permitted, we should use it. We already paid for it too, just like the incinerators. So it is ours to use.

    Afterall, the people that live there knew it was there when they moved into the area.

    FROM BUDDY:

    The county took the land by condemnation in the 1980s. The price, according to the Miami Herald, was $15.5 million in 1986 dollars which the county borrowed.

    The county is spending millions to operate it today and is restricted by the county to accepting certain types of waste– 35,000 tons annually of construction debris (potentially toxic), bulk trash and vegetation delivered in over 3,000 vehicles a month.

  6. Angelo is Wrong says:

    Excellent article, Buddy. And right on the money, too. Angelo Castillo, on the other hand, is not only part of the problem but he is providing information that is sometimes inaccurate, sometimes inflammatory, and sometimes just baffling. For example, the County only owns the land under the south waste-to-energy plant (but not under the north plant, as indicated by Mr. Castillo). And for Mr. Castillo to suggest that we not blame Waste Management for the current monopoly because they were “put in that position” is absurd. Waste Management aquired Wheelabrator Technologies in the 1990s and effectively owns all of the solid waste disposal sites in Broward County except for the County-owned landfill. That is not by accident. That is Waste Management’s corporate strategy. And they implement that strategy with the help of government officials that are all too eager to assist them. If Mr. Castillo can block the use of the SW landfill, he too will have helped Waste Management to the tune of millions (or tens of millions) of dollars per year.

  7. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Buddy,

    An evaluation report issued by county staff to the Broward County Resource Recovery Board in April, 2011 states the following in connection with the status of the SW Regional Landfill to accept Class 1 (residential garbage) waste. This is the actual quote:

    “Although the Southwest Regional Landfill was originally issued a Class I permit, the permit was subsequently modified to restrict the facility to accepting Class III solid waste only. Class III solid waste is defined in Section 62-701 of the Florida Administrative Code as materials that are not expected to produce leachate (e.g., construction debris), while Class I solid waste (e.g., residential garbage) would be expected to produce leachate. Discussion with staff from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) indicates that, prior to accepting Class I solid waste on a daily basis, an application must be filed for a permit/license modification with the FDEP and the County’s Department of Environmental Protection & Growth Management. Based on these discussions, the estimated timeframe for obtaining approval of these modifications would be a minimum of four to six months. This estimate does not account for any potential legal challenges. The Landfill Operations Plan would also have to be modified, updated, and reviewed by the County and State, which could be done concurrently.”

    So, the SW Regional Landfill is not currently permitted to accept residential waste. A modification would be required and that’s a whole process in itself.

    Further, before that modification can be applied for, the County must first amend their Comprehensive Land Use Plan. That is a lengthy and involved process in itself that will require numerous public hearings and all manner of independent review. I know that procedure because I used to chair the Planning Council.

    If the county tries to reopen that dump, and threatens the quality of life of nearly 25% of the county’s population, we the communities impacted will come together and stop it. We’ll have to. Our families will demand it and heaven help anyone that tries to stop that tsunami.

    This is not a threat. It’s a promise. A reliable prediction of the future.

    Much smarter to find an alternative. Shifting this countywide problem to Pembroke Pines in the form of a reopened dump to household garbage waste is just not going to work.

    Angelo

    Note: The Resource Recovery Board staff specifically ANTICIPATES legal challenges and make that observation known in their own report to their board members. To get approval for the leachate problem alone (tons of smelly, highly polluting, liquid swill oozing constantly from rotting garbage right next to the Everglades) will cost the county millions in improvements to the site.

    FROM BUDDY:
    You are not writing anything new. It’s in the post. The site accepts construction, bulk and vegetative waste now. It has a permit for all types of waste which could be exercised by changing the county’s operational plan, a simple procedure unless there is a legal challenge.

    The site was closed to residential and commercial waste to provide more trash for Waste Management, i.e., a monopoly.

    The site already has liners in place to handle any type of waste. Your comment that it threatens the quality of life for 25 percent of the population is ridiculous. Only a handful of people live anywhere near the landfill, which again is operating today. If I were those folks, I would be more worried about the large parcel of land owned by Corrections Corporation near the dump which could end up a prison housing dangerous criminals.

    Hey, I could personally care less. I don’t live near it because I know better than to buy a home near hundreds of acres of vacant industrial land.

    But I am against an inside deal monopoly….which is what we’ve had in this county for decades on waste disposal. It costs everybody more money every month.

  8. S.O.B. says:

    What if…the Cities do not bring waste to the South (441 & 84) site, and Waste Management is sitting there with a plant and NO burnable material to produce for FP&L. Will that bring them to their knees ???

  9. Keep It Straight says:

    There’s goes Angelo again…playing both sides. On one hand he’s for the people in his district against the re-opening of the SW landfill then he is “against” WM supporting an offer for the transfer station…IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE IN TRUE COMPETITION, YOU’D SUPPORT THE TRANSFER STATION AND RE-OPENING THE DUMP….from a county perspective, it benefits most residents, don’t be small minded and look at only the couple hundred to a few thousand near the landfill

  10. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Buddy,

    With respect, it is not ridiculous.

    The impact of the dump is in no way limited to those that live immediately next to it. The odors involved — unlike the case with transfer stations — would be carried for miles. It would affect the quality of life of Weston as much as Cooper City, SW Ranches and Pines, parts of Davie and Miramar. That is a considerable number of people.

    I have no clue what the true condition of the liner is, what additional requirements the environmental protection agencies would impose, or what permitting and environmental issues have not been disclosed. I do know those things tend to be expensive when imposed. All of that results from inspections conducted in response to a modified permit application.

    Modifying the county’s land use plan is rarely easy, ask the Davie Commons people how easy they found it when working with cities not interested in their project. And I’ve already indicated there will be legal challenges at every turn.

    I agree that monopoly deals are rarely good solutions to problems. But saying that doesn’t change any facts. If someone’s alternative to this mess is to reopen the SW Regional Landfill, they should be told that’s not going to happen without a fight. We may lose that fight. But it will be fought anyway. We will fight any plan to again send residential waste to that facility.

    Thousands of us in SW Broward would not have purchased homes if an active dump was there. It was closed to residential waste, we were all told that. It must remain that way. If the ILA falls apart, another alternative must be found.

    I remember you being against a transfer station in Sunrise…had you faced what we’re facing here in Pines perhaps you’d have a different. Nobody hopes for a transfer station. But it sure as a heck beats having a reopened dump and that is the risk my residents face here.

    Angelo

  11. not enjoyable says:

    Seriously, cant you give Castillo his own article like Fields or something?

    This is a blog not War and Peace. Most of us come on here to read your (Buddy’s) views enjoy some of the quips of the other commentators and maybe make a comment or two. To be honest and I am sure there are quite a few people who agree with me, as soon as you see something from Castillo, if motivated, you scroll through (maybe miss other comments) or just forget about it.

    I am sorry while I may not be educated as most, reading another novel by Castillo where everything is laid out like he is the smartest man ever get elected and will do us the favor of educating us, gets old.

    Like most people who comment on here, it blows my mind that a succint answer cant be done in 2-3 paragraphs.

  12. Pines Resident says:

    How come Iris Siple is so confused?

  13. SunriseResident says:

    Open the Broward County landfill and this will at least slow down some of the monopolistic business practices of Waste Management. It is a lined landfill and there is NO chance of it becoming a source of pollution in the everglades. However I do see smoke sometimes coming out of the WM incinerator on State Rd 7. Wonder who tests that smoke for pollutants?

  14. Ben Dover says:

    This blog is about politics news and views. Amusement is for Facebook. The adults are talking, please go in the other room and watch cartoons.

  15. Commissioner Walter Duke says:

    In Dania Beach we recently made Waste Management compete for our residential waste hauling and we were able to shave over a million dollars off of their “non-compete” pricing was. Bid it out! Make these companies compete for our business. When vendors compete, the tax payers win. Plain and simple.

  16. Follow The Money says:

    Duke, you are talking about residential pick up contracts. That is not the subject here. We are talking about disposal of waste after the truck leaves your house.

    You can’t bid out the waste to energy component because the county allowed Waste Management Company to own the incinerator plants that they built with our county resident dollars. We paid for it and they own it. That created a monopoly and Waste Managment is going to squeeze us now for every nickel we have thanks to our friends at Broward County.

    The only basis for competition is to develop alternatives to incineration that force Waste to lower their price for waste to energy incineration.

    For example the reopening the dump is one alternative. Encouraging independently run transfer stations to do business in Broward is another. Either of these force competition on the basis of price for where cities agree to send their garbage. That will lower the cost of incineration and make the renewal of the county plan more acceptable for cities.

    The two options are to pick one of the above or agree to pay Waste’s very high price demands for renewal. Choose.

  17. No Brainer says:

    Buddy,
    The real hang-up will be the clause in the Waste Management Contract that states, Waste Management can veto any decision regarding the BIC Landfill. Check that out, why they put that in the agreement and still spent millions on lining the landfill is really questionable (who push that idea)?

    Alot of Tax Payer was spent on something we can not even use.

  18. Americus Vespucci says:

    Isn’t Dania Beach where the city commission, led by mayor MacElyea & which Mr. Duke is a member, picked Waste Management to collect their garbage, despite the fact that other companies bid as much as $500,000 less?! Check the minutes. The commission & Waste Management seem to be very happy about costing Dania Beach taxpayers a bundle. Why do you think that is.

  19. Garbage says:

    It isn’t only Dania Beach. Hollywood and Pembroke Pines let garbage contracts which cost their taxpayers extra money. Hollywood’s is being investigated right now.

  20. Inventing Facts says:

    When an argument can’t be won on the facts some invent facts to prop up their losing argument. That is what we see in post 8:47. Not one word there is accurate.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Actually, as reported here and the Sun-Sentinel, Hollywood’s mayor has asked the federal and state authorities to investigate allegations that gifts and free dinners swayed the award of the Hollywood city garbage contract.

    So that part of the comment is true.

  21. city Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Wow, listen to Comm.angelo Castillo go on and on 11am , 12noon etc.I’ll remember all these blog comments. Here he is director of a non profit (Broward House)and can blog all day long on OUR dime. You are not paying yourself over 100 grand we the taxpayer support you. I’ll again remember these long comments when you go before Ft.Lau, when your on your knees begging for more dough(Hopwa funds ring a bell). i mean yes I agree with some of the issues he brings up, but blog on your own time , not taxpayer’s. And yes competion is good, let them all send in bids and the most cost effective firm gets the deal. No we will have the who’s who of whoville wanting a cut($$), just as I see with any other big ticket item.

  22. Lisa says:

    Commissioner Duke was the ONLY commissioner who voted against Waste Management. He was the ONLY commissioner who fought for a simple RFP process. He hosted a “waste haulers workshop” and demanded fairness. He fought hard at the meeting, but was the ONLY no vote against Waste Management.

  23. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Robert:

    It’s nice of you to imagine the terms and conditions of my employment. But the fact is that my community activism is very much a part of both my job descriptions.

    As a company CEO and an elected official I’m on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without exception, and have a duty to both my employers to speak out for the betterment of the community without limitation. It is a burden that I carry willingly, lawfully and without complaint.

    Both of my employers get much more than their money’s worth out of me, I have served them both with distiction, and on behalf of both I thank you for your comments.

    Angelo

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