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Today's word on journalism

Friday, September 1, 2006

"[F]ew things are as much a part of our lives as the news. With the advent of sophisticated mass communication, the news has become a sort
of instant historical record of the pace, progress, problems, and the hopes of society. On the other hand--and here's the puzzle -- the news provides, at best, a superficial and distorted image of society. . . . The puzzle, simply put, is this: How can anything so superficial be so central to our lives?"

--W. Lance Bennett, political science professor, 1988

Landfill site near Stink Creek and Dirty Head not popular in Newton

By Molly Farmer

May 1, 2006 | NEWTON -- Dirty Head and Stink Creek roads may not sound like very appealing destinations to some valley residents. But for Cache County officials, a solution to the area's filling landfill may lie between them.

According to the Logan Landfill Siting Study, the landfill currently serving county residents is expected to reach its capacity in 2023. A plot of land about four miles north of Clarkston between Dirty Head Rd. and Stink Creek Rd. was chosen and purchased, as it is considered the best in-county site for a landfill should county officials decide to build a new one.

Not everyone is pleased with the location, however. Concerns among locals, including Newton and Clarkston residents, became very apparent when a heated public meeting was held in 2002 in Clarkston.

"A landfill never goes down happy," Newton Mayor Clair Christiansen said last week.

Utah State University Professor Douglas Jackson-Smith conducted a survey of 600 residents. Two hundred were residents near the potential landfill site, 200 were Logan residents, and 200 were residents from different parts of the county whose opinions were used to evaluate what the communities cared about. The survey was a "way to take the pulse of the community," he said.

Jackson-Smith found Clarkston, Newton and Cache Junction respondents preferred to have an out-of-county site while the rest of the county preferred an in-county site.

Jackson-Smith said he attributes some of the inclination toward an in-county location to bargaining power. Should Cache County run out of landfill space without any alternate sites, trash would have to be taken out-of-county and the county would lose control over disposal rates. If Cache County owned a potential landfill site, however, the county would have more negotiating power.

The study also found people were most concerned with water quality, noise and smell-related nuisances, loss of wildlife habitat and minimizing cost.

"A repeated concern is a sense of unfairness that a remote area of the county that generates a small amount of waste could be considered as a location for a countywide landfill," according to the Logan Landfill Siting Study.

Christiansen said people would have liked to have had the site closer to Logan, but it's "better to make a town of 700 unhappy," than a city of 30,000 to 40,000.

The process to find an alternate site for the county's waste began in 1997 and has been actively pursued since. A citizens advisory committee along with a technical committee was organized to make recommendations concerning the selection of a future landfill site. These two organizations reported to the Logan City Environmental Department concerning their findings.

Christiansen was one of 11 people who served on the ctizens advisory committee. The committee was successful in making resolutions that would benefit Newton and Clarkston residents. If a landfill is built on the purchased plot, trucks transporting waste would have to bypass the towns and the committee also recommended a transfer station be developed in an urban area to reduce vehicle trips.

Aside from being the mayor of Newton and a person on the citizens advisory committee, Christiansen owns farmland that borders the purchased plot. He said he's mainly concerned about the agricultural impact a landfill will have on the area.

If a landfill is to be constructed in-county, it won't begin for another 10 years, Jackson-Smith said. After all the research and surveying that has taken place though, it appears the site north of Clarkston is the primary option.

"They've spent a lot of money," he said, and the long process of looking for another location isn't likely.

At the request of the Solid Waste Advisory Board, alternate sites continue to be explored out of county. Davis, Weber, Cache and Box Elder Counties are currently looking into creating a four-county landfill in Box Elder County.

"Every county has to do something with their junk," Christiansen said.

Cache County Council's recent recycling decision, which will enforce mandatory recycling over the next two years, is a more pressing issue for commissioners than making any final decisions on a landfill, he said. "They're not really worried about us right now," Christiansen said.

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