Susan K. Lamb, Special to the Free Press

It was a pretty stinky event May 6 when Suwannee County Commissioners gathered to celebrate the opening of the county's new garbage transfer station.

Under a brilliant sun and air filled with the smell of rotting garbage, commissioners, Suwannee and Lafayette county officials, along with Gainesville Engineer Frank Darabi and his staff, Waste Management officials and others gathered to cut a red, white and blue ribbon designating the official grand opening of the transfer station. However, the station has been in operation for several weeks. Commissioners then invited their guests to enjoy a fried fish dinner underneath a tent next to the drainage ditch across from the transfer station, flavored with the sweet smell of garbage being transported away from Suwannee County for the first time in history.

The garbage of Suwannee and Lafayette counties, Branford and White Springs is no longer being buried underneath Florida soil, but instead is being taken to Cheshire Island landfill about 98 miles north of Live Oak and just south of Waycross, Ga. No more will Suwannee County bury its garbage locally as it has since time eternal. However, the county will have to monitor for the next 30 years the landfill adjacent to the transfer station where millions of tons of garbage now rests below and above ground.

The new transfer station, built at a cost of $680,000, will be used by Suwannee County and other counties who wish to contract with Suwannee, including Lafayette County, to get rid of garbage. The station was designed by Darabi to handle up to 400 tons of garbage per day. Darabi said the new facility will reduce the tipping fee at the landfill from $50 per ton to $32 per ton at a savings of about $42 percent. "The overall savings is expected to multiply as additional waste is handled through the transfer station," Darabi said.

The money to build the transfer station had been set aside by the county and earmarked to add another cell to the landfill, but when the decision was made to close the landfill, the money was used for the new facility.

Hatch said there will be no reduction in costs to local citizens immediately, but after evaluation in the future, there could be a reduction if the numbers indicate a savings under the new system.

The transfer station does not change the way solid waste is handled in the county. All recycling centers continue to work in exactly the same way, with solid waste being picked up at the recycling center and then delivered to the transfer station.

Although solid waste (garbage) will no longer be placed in the landfill, local citizens shouldn't even notice any difference in their lives.

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