Featured photo: Resident Malinda Pagett voices concerns at Wednesday’s meeting about Bingham Park and White Street Landfill. (Photo by Marielle Argueza)

(UPDATE 6/25/24: The city is inviting residents to tour White Street Landfill on July 2, 3, 5 and 8 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Register here.)

“If you’re going to be disruptive, then you can leave.”

That’s what the city of Greensboro’s Communications and Marketing Director Carla Banks told a crowd of more than 50 residents on Wednesday night during a contentious meeting to discuss the city’s plan to use White Street Landfill in East Greensboro as the dumping ground for waste from the site of a nearby preregulatory landfill that was covered over in the 1970s by the city and turned into Bingham Park. 

The area has since been closed off to all users since April due to the presence of harmful substances such as arsenic, iron, manganese and lead. Two disposal areas of White Street Landfill, which opened in the 1940s, are unlined. However, the city would only be using a lined phase of the landfill for Bingham Park’s waste disposal. 

To discuss the possible options and the plan for Bingham Park waste disposal, the city conducted a public meeting on Wednesday to explain their process and answer any questions. During the meeting, the city placed residents and experts in breakout sessions in different parts of the gymnasium at Peeler Recreation Center, but some residents felt like it was a tactic to drive them apart.

“No breakout sessions! No breakout sessions,” the crowd chanted as Banks tried to direct attendees to various parts of the recreation center to have their questions about Bingham Park, White Street Landfill and the remediation process answered.

Residents listen to city leaders and staff discuss the plan to remediate Bingham Park and potentially use White Street Landfill to dispose of the waste. The meeting was held on Wednesday at Peeler Recreation Center. (Photo by Marielle Argueza)

“You have to be civil,” said Banks.

“We are not separate, we are one community,” one resident protested.

District 2 Councilmember Goldie Wells chastised the group: “Some of you have never been to the White Street Landfill, you don’t know where Bingham Park is. You just got into the fury of the thing.” 

“If you don’t like the format, then you don’t have to stay,” Wells added.

“We’re staying together!” another resident chimed in.

The city is currently offering tours of White Street Landfill to residents. (UPDATE 6/25/24: The city is inviting residents to tour the landfill on July 2, 3, 5 and 8 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Register here.) While city leaders and staff may feel like they have made the best laid plans, residents who suffered as a result of the city’s decisions in the past still have trouble trusting that the landfill is safe. In 2011, a study by the NC Division of Public Health confirmed elevated rates of pancreatic cancer in residents around White Street Landfill.

In an interview with TCB, resident Vanessa Martin was dismayed about how the night went. 

“I hate that because we have passion and we care about our community, that people get called bullies,” Martin said.  “That’s not bullying, that’s freedom of speech.”

Whether the landfill will be used remains to be seen. The ultimate decision is predicted to be made by the mayor and city councilmembers during the July 16 meeting. 

If the resolution to use White Street Landfill does pass, creating the cleanup plan of action will require the help of experts and take months to develop. The remediation process will also cost a significant amount of money, no matter what they decide to do. While using White Street Landfill will cost between $24-27 million and is the cheapest option, the city will be left with a “funding gap” to fill, Fleischmann said, as the city has identified potential funding that currently falls between $14.7-$22.1 million in federal and state dollars.

Residents learn about the plan to remediate Bingham Park in breakout sessions. (Photo by Marielle Argueza)

Dump trucks would take 11-mile round trips to dispose of more than 11,400 tons of Bingham Park dirt.

Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Kobe Riley said since 2010 when Bingham Park was designated as a preregulatory landfill, it’s been a “functionally obsolete park.” Kids can’t run around and play because it’s unsafe. And the area needs a park, Riley said.

One resident who spoke to TCB on the condition of anonymity said,  “I think this landfill has had its problems…It just seems like everything comes right back to the landfill, and I guess the community is tired of it.”

And the way the discussion was handled was another concern. “I think we should have done it as a group,” the resident said.

Residents learn about the plan to remediate Bingham Park in breakout sessions. (Photo by Marielle Argueza)

At-large Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter told TCB that she hasn’t made up her mind as to how she’ll vote yet. Abuzuaiter ran for office after joining the fight against the city’s plan to open a new phase of White Street Landfill, so the ordeal holds personal significance for her. 

The city’s Parks and Recreation Director Phil Fleischmann said that the city remains “steadfast” in its commitment to not reopen White Street Landfill to household garbage. Currently, the landfill only accepts construction debris and yard waste, and this decision would close the landfill eight years earlier than originally planned.

“We want to make this right,” Abuzuaiter said, noting that another council could choose to reopen the landfill. 

“The faster we can rush this to close it to everything, the better. And that is one thing I am just mulling over in my mind over and over again,” she said.

Read past reporting about Bingham Park here.

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