About five percent of Boyd County's budget — more than $1 million a year — comes from accepting garbage and sewage sludge from New York and New Jersey.
The Big Run Landfill, which produces a stench that can gag travelers on Interstate 64, also employs 72 people.
A succession of economic blows hammered the Ashland area in recent decades, which may explain why agreeing to become the final resting place for 43 million tons of the Northeast's refuse seemed like a good idea in 2005.
Now demands to close the landfill are coming from everyone, including the school board and even county elected officials who without the landfill revenue will have to approve layoffs or tax increases.
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The public unity in a place accustomed to industrial smells speaks to how severely the quality of life, property values and local tax base have been degraded.
The landfill's owner, northern Virginia-based EnviroSolutions, Inc., might have spared itself this backlash if, after a trash slide damaged the gas-collection system in 2013, the volume of garbage had been reduced long enough to properly repair the infrastructure.
The year before the slide, the landfill generated 40 to 45 complaints to the state. In 2014, there were nearly 600 complaints and so far this year more than 1,600.
A state-mandated odor-control plan that was completed in May has helped, observers say, but the nuisance is still intolerable.
Also, long garbage-filled CSX trains stall traffic and have been photographed leaking liquids.
Big Run is Kentucky's largest landfill, the only one where garbage arrives via train and one of the biggest in the eastern United States.
Unless EnviroSolutions can bring Big Run into compliance with odor-control rules, the state has no choice but to refuse to renew the permit when it expires in January. That's the law.
Nonetheless, both state and local governments will almost certainly be sued by the company if they move to shut down the landfill or even reduce the huge volume of 3,500 tons of garbage a day.
But the cost of rendering part of Kentucky unlivable more than justifies the risk of lawsuits.
Other counties should take note: Boyd sacrificed some leverage against the landfill operator by failing to avail itself of all the protections in Kentucky's landmark 1992 law, which vested waste-management planning in local governments.
The impetus for that law remains unassailable: There's no gold in other states' garbage.