Garfield County won’t accept pit liners anymore
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The West Garfield County landfill in Rifle has ceased accepting the liners for various kinds of holding pits from gas well sites around the county.
New state regulations requiring gas well operators to remove the liners, once the pits are no longer being used, have meant more of the liners coming in more frequently, according to a presentation at the Garfield County commissioners meeting on Monday.
And questions about the kinds of substances sticking to the liners, as well as about the ability of the landfill to accommodate the increasing numbers of them, prompted the commissioners to call a halt on the process. The liners have been accepted for a couple of years, according to landfill personnel.
“We do have rules about what we’re allowed to accept,” oil and gas liaison Judy Jordan told the commissioners on Monday, explaining that the increasing numbers of liners coming in has led to a closer inspection of the material as the landfill operators try to figure out how to dispose of them.
She said the liners are too bulky, and too covered with hydrocarbons and other potentially hazardous materials, to be dealt with easily.
“We really don’t know what’s on ’em,” Jordan said after the meeting, explaining that the county is unsure even what kind of pit a particular liner was used in, since the industry uses many different pits for different purposes.
As for dealing with the liners, said public works official Marvin Stephens, if they are put through the compactors, they end up clogging up the works. Plus, the commissioners were told, the liners are incredibly voluminous.
“They just come out in a big old gob,” Stephens said. “Shredding is the only answer.”
One of the liners, wadded into a bundle, might fill up a third of the space of the county commissioners’ meeting room, Stephens said.
“If we have a tremendous influx of these liners, it’s going to fill that landfill awfully quickly,” noted commissioner Mike Samson. “Is that wise?”
After hearing that the liners are being packed into one part of the landfill, taking up a large amount of space and possibly draining potentially hazardous chemicals, Samson asked rhetorically, “Is this creating a big nightmare for us down the road … a potential disaster?”
Commissioner Tresi Houpt agreed with Samson’s concerns, noting that if the county lacks the resources to deal with this sudden onslaught of liners, it simply should not until something can be figured out.
Some suggested that the companies themselves be made responsible for cleaning the liners off, removing any potentially harmful substances once they are removed from the pits as part of a state-mandated replacement process. Jordan said it may be possible for the oil well operators to dispose of them on site.
Stephens said Mesa County landfill can handle the liners, and Commissioner John Martin said that a landfill in Utah is specifically intended to dispose of these kinds of materials.
But in both cases, the commissioners noted the high cost of transportation would be a problem.
Jordan said that the operators have to comply with state water pollution regulations, but added that they only submit the necessary paperwork describing their disposal and monitoring procedures “when there’s a complaint.”
Officials agreed that the county should stop accepting the liners until the matter is studied and understood better.
But then, others noted, there needs to be some kind of testing of the substances to determine exactly what they are, before leaving it to the companies to clean them and dispose of them, possibly by creating landfills of their own in the high country.
“If these liners are too dirty to go in our landfill, do we actually want to leave them behind?” Jordan asked.
County staff will analyze the issue and report back to the commissioners at a future meeting.
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