Pitkin County Landfill could last 50 more years if new plans go through
March 13, 2018
The Pitkin County Landfill may have a quite a bit more life left than officials originally thought.
During the last county commissioner update in August on the rapidly-filling facility, Pitkin County officials identified a modest expansion area that would extend the landfill's life another six years to 2031. After that, officials proposed building an $8 million transfer station to facilitate shipping hundreds of tons of trash per day to regional landfills.
Now, however, the transfer station idea is off the table because a southern section of the landfill has been newly identified as an expansion area capable of extending the landfill's life by more than 40 years.
"It's a biggie," Cathy Hall, solid waste manager, told Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday.
Taken together, the northern and southern expansion areas increase the life of landfill by almost 50 years, provided roughly the same amount of trash continues entering the facility, according to Hall and Brian Pettet, the county's public works director.
"This will buy the landfill 42 years of life," Hall said Tuesday. "This is new. We haven't talked about this."
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Landfill officials are almost ready to submit design plans for the northern landfill expansion to state officials, who must issue a permit, Hall said. She said she doesn't envision many speed bumps in that process, which generally takes 18 to 24 months, she said.
That expanded portion will add 900,000 cubic yards of space to the landfill, Hall said.
Obtaining permission from state officials to open the southern expansion area — which would add 5.6 million cubic yards of space — could be more problematic, she said. That's because the added area will require additional state scrutiny, regulatory permits and expenses, Hall said.
If allowed, however, the landfill could continue to be used until 2073, according to information from Hall and Pettet.
The two expansion projects likely will continue through the regulatory process on separate tracks, Hall said. Commissioners were unanimously supportive of going through the permitting process for both expansions.
"It's new life for the landfill, right?" Commissioner George Newman said.
The new area was identified in conjunction with a consultant, who was able to look at the area with new eyes, Hall and Pettet said.
In 2012, county officials believed the landfill would last another 25 years. However, the amount of waste entering the facility in the interim years — much of it construction debris — skyrocketed, lowering the landfill's lifespan.
"We're taking in 71 percent more waste than in 2010," Hall said. "It's growing like gang-busters."
Construction debris — which fills up the landfill quicker but also brings in needed revenue — accounted for 59 percent of the waste deposited in the landfill in 2016. In 2017, that number rose to 62 percent, Hall said.
For example, the former Sky Hotel, which was torn down last summer, took up 3,030 cubic yards of space in the landfill, the equivalent to 3,000 people's yearly trash output, Hall said previously.
The expansion planning will affect several other projects and facilities under consideration for or already existing at the landfill, Hall and Pettet said. Those include a proposed "drop and swap" facility to encourage recycling of building materials and other items, an upgrade to an existing fuel farm that will likely have to move if expansion plans go through and a law enforcement shooting range, they said.
The shooting range, which appeared likely to move, now may remain in the same spot and undergo renovations, they said.
Those projects likely would be re-jiggered once the county receives — or doesn't receive — expansion permission, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said.