Carbondale waste facility could hurt Pitkin landfill
September 12, 2012
ASPEN – A proposed waste-transfer station near Carbondale could affect operation of the Pitkin County Landfill or put the county facility out of business altogether, county commissioners were warned Tuesday.
Pitkin County intends to voice its concerns, through both a letter and the presence of its solid waste manager, Chris Hoofnagle, when Garfield County commissioners hold a public hearing on the transfer station proposal Monday. They will meet in Glenwood Springs.
Waste hauler Mountain Rolloffs Inc. and property owner IRMW II LLC are asking Garfield County for permission to locate a solid-waste transfer station and recycling-processing facility at the former Mid-Continent coal loadout along County Road 100 (Catherine Store Road), two miles east of Carbondale.
The proposed operation would process municipal waste, construction debris and recyclable materials; trash would be hauled to either the South Canyon Landfill near Glenwood Springs or the Anvil Points Landfill in West Rifle, according to Hoofnagle. Mountain Rolloffs Inc. intends to take construction debris it currently brings to the Pitkin County Landfill to the transfer station instead, and other waste haulers could use the facility as well.
Currently, revenues from the fees Pitkin County charges for waste and construction debris heavily subsidize its recycling program. Recycling, though, isn’t the only aspect of the operation that could be in jeopardy, Hoofnagle said.
“The potential is for all of our waste revenue being directed to this (transfer) facility,” Hoofnagle said. “It’s not just our recycling program. It’s our ability to operate our landfill at all. I think what’s important for Pitkin County goes beyond are we or are we not going to have a recycling system.”
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Pitkin County took in about $2.4 million in total revenue from waste in 2011, and construction debris accounted for about $1.2 million of that total, according to Hoofnagle. About $350,000 of the revenue from construction debris came from Mountain Rolloffs, which has indicated it will use the new transfer station if it’s approved.
Pitkin County commissioners agreed they need to let their counterparts in Garfield County know the proposal may hurt services that are currently available to Pitkin County residents. The county, for example, accepts electronics and hazardous wastes and operates centralized drop-off recycling facilities.
“We have an obligation to let them know there’s a possible negative impact here,” Commissioner Michael Owsley said.
While haulers would continue to pick up garbage and recyclables from households with or without the Pitkin County Landfill in the picture, the county would lose the influence it exerts over that service if the landfill no longer operates, Hoofnagle said. He compared it to owning versus renting – knowing one’s set costs versus knowing only that prices will rise but not knowing how much or when.
The county landfill could, he said, alter its business model in response to the transfer facility if it opens. One option is a sales tax or property tax to support the landfill, allowing it to operate competitively and continue to subsidize recycling services.
Or, Hoofnagle said, the county could enforce a regulation it already has on the books that requires haulers to deliver all waste and recyclables collected within unincorporated Pitkin County to the landfill. The effect would be greater if municipalities within the county followed suit, he noted.
Government-operated facilities are allowed to use this “flow-control” approach, but whether a government landfill that hires a private contractor to run the facility can employ flow control is the subject of current litigation. Pitkin County’s landfill is run by a private contractor; the contract expires at the end of 2015, Hoofnagle said.
The Garfield County hearing begins at 1 p.m. Monday. Carbondale’s Board of Trustees has already written a letter asking Garfield County commissioners to deny the transfer-station application and neighbors in the area have organized as Don’t Trash Carbondale.