A consultant's report on a proposed Orange County waste transfer station omitted critical information about the presence of wetlands on one of the sites, the Indy has learned.
A recent analysis, commissioned by Orange County, reveals that the proposed, 143-acre site in southwestern Orange County contains multiple streams and wetlands throughout the property. That analysis, conducted by soil and environmental scientist Hal Owen, is at odds with a February 2009 report (PDF, 1.8 MB), by Charlotte-based consultants Olver, Inc., that stated "site development will not result in the impact of wetlands in the vicinity of the project."
In the ongoing, 17-month site selection process devised by Olver, the consultants excluded potential sites that did not contain at least 25 acres "unencumbered" by wetlands and floodplains. However, Owen's report shows that the parcel on N.C. 54 is covered with wetlands and streams. At a Solid Waste Advisory Board meeting earlier this month, Olver announced that it was recommending the purchase of just 25 of the site's 143 acres—yet, according to Owen's report, this area alone contains three separate wetland areas, and two additional streams.
Even before the private wetlands survey, conducted earlier this month, several local and state agencies questioned the environmental assessment prepared by Olver, and paid for by Orange County. (As the county's waste transfer station consultant, Olver has received more than $250,000 from Orange County as of last month.) Several state and local officers recommended a full wetlands survey, and—if wetlands were found—that the county apply for a permit through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the N.C. Division of Water Quality.
In a March 25 e-mail to N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources staff, DWQ Raleigh officer Danny Smith writes that, based on a DWQ site visit, "there is a large wetlands complex within the footprint of the tract."
"They indicated in the text of the EA that the Wetlands Inventory Map does not indicate the presence of wetlands on the map," Smith writes, referring to Olver's February report. However, "This is not a delineation and is not a meaningful accurate way to provide data to DENR."
In a March 31 memo, Rich Shaw, land conservation manager for the county's Environment and Resource Conservation Department, questions Olver's assertion that the project will not impact wetlands.
"It's likely that the facility could be designed to avoid the wetlands, but ERCD feels that the wetland survey is needed before one should conclude that the development would not affect the wetlands," Shaw writes.
And, in a March 13 letter, Shari Bryant, a Habitat Conservation Program coordinator for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, writes that the National Wetland Inventory Maps that Olver relies on "are often not inclusive of all streams and wetlands that are present," and recommends a site-specific survey to identify wetlands and streams.
"Site design and construction should avoid impacting these resources to the maximum extent possible," she writes.
At tonight's County Commission meeting, Olver is scheduled to present a follow-up on its environmental assessment—including the potential effect on wetlands, plants, animals and endangered species—and an assessment of alternatives. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at 2501 Homestead Road.
A response from the State Clearinghouse is forthcoming.