Proposal would add 10 years to landfill lifespan
Managers of the Pitkin County Landfill are planning to ask the county’s permission this fall to expand the facility enough to add as much as 10 years to its roughly 25-year remaining lifespan.
The expansion would take place directly adjacent to the existing “working face” of the landfill, and would not require the acquisition of new property. It would involve expanding the dumping area to fill in a ditch northwest of the landfill that abuts a hillside.
“I don’t think we will have to reshape the landscape much,” said Pitkin County Public Works Director Brian Pettet. “This expansion is more of the same; I don’t expect there would be a lot of earthmoving to be done.”
Landfill managers will go before the county commissioners on Oct. 8 to present the proposal. With county approval, they’ll proceed with an 18-month state permitting process.
“We are going to propose to extend our permit and allow us to fill in that ditch area,” said county Solid Waste Manager Cathy Hall. She noted that the expansion would require a stormwater management plan to insure that contaminated runoff doesn’t make its way into groundwater or surface water around the landfill.
State regulators could also require that the expanded dumping area be lined with an impermeable material to prevent contaminated water from seeping into the ground, Hall said. The existing landfill, which was built in the 1960s, is unlined.
“We have some groundwater issues that we have to monitor continuously,” she said.
Aside from adding between five and 10 years to the lifespan of the landfill, expanding the dumping area would also create a larger working platform to build on when the landfill is eventually capped, said Pettet.
“Once the landfill is closed, you have a larger platform on top to have a materials recovery facility,” he said.
That facility could be anything from an expanded compost area to a recycling facility or waste transfer station, Pettet said.
Whatever it is, landfill managers are confident that they’ll never be able to get another dump permitted in Pitkin County after the current one is full.
“The land is too expensive,” said Hall. “We would likely put a transfer station in, and transfer the waste out on tractor trailers to Montrose or Eagle County, where their landfill has something like a 100-year lifespan.”
Across the United States, Hall said, the current trend is toward larger and more concentrated landfills with life expectancies of more than a century.
“It is almost impossible to permit a new landfill anywhere in the United States,” she said.
Since she took over as solid waste manger in January, Hall has been saying that the landfill’s life expectancy is around 15 years. That changed last week, when an audit by a Denver-based engineering company gave her confidence that it’s more like 25.
“We had an aerial flyover about three years ago [to gauge the lifespan], but being new ... I couldn’t find any good documentation,” she said.
The secret to the current 25-year lifespan, said Hall, is compaction, which reduces trash volume by a factor of two, and shredding of construction and demolition waste, which reduces its volume by a factor of three.
Aside from expanding the facility, Hall and Pettet are hoping to launch several initiatives to increase revenues at the landfill this fall, including overhauling — and perhaps privatizing — the county’s recycling program, expanding the landfill’s composting program, and setting up a facility to accept septic waste.
Waste volumes at Pitkin County Landfill
Year MSW Yards C&D Yards Total
2007 64,435 110,400 174,835
2008 52,034 85,500 137,574
2009 53,915 39,900 93,815
2010 66,654 30,300 96,954
2011 93,321 23,200 116,521
2012 110,289 20,100 130,389
The volume of waste accepted by the Pitkin County Landfill dropped off sharply after the economic recession of 2008, but has begun to increase again recently. The steady decline in construction and demolition waste accepted by the landfill has been offset by a sharp increase in municipal and solid waste starting around 2011.