Landfill officials try to quell the smell |

Landfill officials try to quell the smell

Chad Abraham

Composting complications at the Pitkin County landfill have thrown a stench over Aspen Village and a wrench into long-term plans at the site.A few complaints from the residential area have drifted into the landfill, which is about a mile from Aspen Village. Chris Hoofnagle, solid waste operations manager, said the sewage-like smell is coming from a composting site recently set up outside the landfill.After the complaints, employees moved the compost area back inside the landfill and stopped using the offending site.”We’re immediately reacting to [the complaints] and going to make sure there is no impact to” Aspen Village, he said.The composting process involves mixing “biosolids” from the sanitation plant with wood debris, such as lumber, brush and trees, collected at the landfill. The mixture decomposes over time.”Then you end up with a product that’s a lot like soil. You mix it with soil to enhance the soil’s qualities for growing things,” Hoofnagle said.The mixture, which smells earthy in its finished state, is sold to landscaping companies.The goal of putting the composting operation outside the property is to keep it functional after the landfill closes. The site is scheduled to be at full capacity and close in 15 to 20 years.”We’ve got some plans in the works to have a new facility design that can be permanent,” Hoofnagle said. The composting program “can continue after the landfill’s finished accepting trash. The idea is to have a place where it can operate that’s off the landfill’s footprint.”The plans for a permanent composting operation involve obtaining state permits and amending the site’s master plan. The operation would be enclosed in a structure to eliminate odors wafting toward Aspen Village. The Pitkin County commissioners discussed a memorandum of understanding for the plans last week.”There’s a little bit of process before we can have a permanent facility,” he said.There are still a few compost piles at the now-abandoned site that caused the complaints. Hoofnagle said it’s possible certain components of the operation can remain in the area without offending the neighbors. But “if there’s any impact to the neighborhood next door, we’ll stop use [of the site] completely,” he said.With the mixing process now back inside the landfill proper, “I’m sure we’ve curtailed most of the odor issues. But I can’t say for sure that’s going to be a 100 percent fix.”The residents of the nearby residential area have one more plus on their side in the effort to eradicate the odor.”I live in Aspen Village, so I can go home at night and tell” whether the problem has been fixed, Hoofnagle said.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is

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