FARSON — The landfill in Farson is expected to remain open for the short term, but its future is up in the air.
The landfill's last days were expected to be in July as the design and plans for the closure are done. The initial plan was to stop receiving waste and start closing the landfill by July 16. However, Trihydro Senior Engineer Jeff Young, who is working with the Eden Valley Solid Waste Disposal District Board, was told the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will allow it to remain open for another year.
"We really try to work with these entities," DEQ Solid & Hazardous Waste Division Administrator Luke Esch said. "We understand it's kind of difficult and no one has an easy solution to this."
The board requested more time from the DEQ because it missed the window for bidding in the current construction season, Esch said.
The district is still proceeding with plans to close its landfill, but Board Chairman Jim Burnett said at a Wednesday board meeting they are willing "to extend it as long as we can."
Young told the Rocket-Miner the process to close the landfill won't start until July 1, 2020.
MOVING TOWARD REGIONAL LANDFILLS
The landfill will close because the disposal district's landfill permit with the DEQ expired, Young and Disposal District board members said. Esch told the Rocket-Miner the board did not ask the DEQ to renew the permit. Finances are a reason the disposal district is closing the landfill.
"Due in large part to the groundwater contamination caused by unlined landfills, landfill operating costs have risen beyond the financial capabilities of many local governments in Wyoming," according to an DEQ report to the Wyoming Legislature's Joint Minerals, Business, and Economic Development Interim Committee.
To deal with rising costs, many small landfill operators plan to transfer waste to more cost-effective regional landfills, rather than close their local ones, the October 2018 report states.
Several years ago, the Wyoming Legislature passed legislation having solid waste management entities evaluate the costs to run a landfill. They looked at the best options to manage solid waste, line landfills, or close them and transfer their waste, depending on financial resources and the proximity of regional lined landfills, according to the DEQ.
Farson has had a transfer station for about six years. The station, which acts as a midway point between a small and regional landfill, has been taking its municipal and dead animal waste to Rock Springs.
The cost to close the landfill would be split between the state and Eden Valley Solid Waste Disposal District with each paying about $790,000. The landfill was fourth on the priority list for funding as of October 2018, according to the DEQ.
"That's what's allowing smaller communities to get out of the landfilling business," Young said.
THE LANDFILL DEBATE
Residents at Wednesday's board meeting expressed concerns about a landfill closure.
Shirley DeLambert said she would support a mill levy increase "so we can still keep our dump."
The landfill was supposed to shut 10 to 15 years ago, but the district did its best to keep it open. Taking down the old Farson-Eden School gave the district more time, according to Burnett.
The district asked the DEQ to hold off because the old school building was going to be demolished. It helped the state's school construction department because the landfill was close and was cheaper to haul the material. Esch said it was beneficial to the district because it charged a fee for taking the waste.
"That's allowed us to remain open," Burnett said.
Residents said the board needs more time to work on its plan. Board members said the current system would remain the same with the transfer station. The only thing that would change is the disposal of large items like buildings and trailer homes. These items would have to be broken down to fit into a roll-off container and separated into piles before they are disposed at the landfill, Young said.
DEAD ANIMAL ISSUES
Another concern focused on animal carcasses. DeLambert said she is concerned that corpses will be left in the desert or around the community too long.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department Regional Wildlife Supervisor Todd Graham told the Rocket-Miner it may be more difficult for hunters to legally dispose of carcasses as landfills close or they may need to travel further to get to an approved landfill.
Rock Springs accepts both solid waste and bodies of dead animals but keeps them separate. Sweetwater County Solid Waste District No. 1 Manager Kevin Herman told the Rocket-Miner they do not combine the two because they do not want children to be traumatized by the sight of animals, and it prevents the spread of diseases.
In the meantime, residents in Farson are concerned that carcasses would remain in the community too long and cause horrendous odors. They asked the board to figure out a way to remove the bodies as quickly as possible.
The concern lies over when the containers would be sent since they have to be separated in Rock Springs. If the containers are kept for a week, there are things to consider including the animals the Wyoming Department of Transportation dumps and chronic wasting disease concerns, Young said.
Additional trips mean increased costs to the district and residents who use the service, Young added.
"We're going to put some costs together to see how we can deal with the dead animal issue," he said.
Esch said a short-term option is to have them decompose until they become bone and hide and then throw them in a construction and demolition pit.
Young said he will meet with the DEQ while Josie Harns said the board will try and have someone from DEQ speak at the July meeting.
By keeping the landfill open another year, DeLambert said it gives more time for the community to prepare itself.
Esch said it is possible for the landfill to remain open in the future. If the disposal district wanted the landfill to operate long term, it would have to construct a new municipal solid waste cell or landfill. The cost is hard to determine, but it would likely be over $1 million depending on its size, Esch said.
"We don't dictate what operators do. The options are open to them," he added.