Pitkin County dump filling up faster than projected, will be full by 2025
August 15, 2017
Just five years ago, officials estimated the Pitkin County Landfill had enough space to last another quarter-century.
But with record amounts of waste entering the facility since then — much of it construction debris — county officials have scaled that estimate way down to just eight years, according to a memo written by Cathy Hall, solid waste manager, and Brian Pettet, public works director.
"Based on 123,185 cubic yards of incoming buried waste in 2016, and an estimated 3 percent annual increase of incoming waste, the landfill is projected to close in 2025 without an expansion (or in 2031 with an expansion)," the memo states.
In 2012, the landfill was estimated to last until 2038. However, incoming waste has increased by 71 percent since 2010, which "has significantly decreased remaining life of the landfill," according to the memo. Much of that added waste is thanks to the improving economy, when people buy more, throw away more and tear down their houses and hotels more often, Hall said Tuesday.
Of that 123,185 cubic yards buried in 2016, 59 percent was construction and demolition debris, according to the memo from Hall and Pettet.
And that trend is only increasing in 2017, Hall said.
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The facility has seen a 25 percent increase in general waste this year over 2016, and already has taken in more than $1 million more in revenue this year than last year, Hall said.
Much of that extra debris, again, is the result of construction projects, she said. The former Sky Hotel, which was torn down earlier this summer, took up 3,030 cubic yards of space in the landfill, the equivalent of 3,000 people's yearly trash output, Hall said.
"We are having a record year," she said.
Hall and Pettet on Tuesday presented Pitkin County commissioners with three options to address the future of the county's garbage.
The first is to authorize an 869,000 cubic yard "lateral expansion," then close the landfill and require haulers to take the county's trash to regional landfills, according to Hall and the memo. Those landfills currently include South Canyon in Glenwood Springs, Garfield County in West Rifle, Eagle County in Wolcott and Mesa County in Grand Junction.
The second option is to forgo the Pitkin County Landfill expansion and instead build a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot transfer station at the landfill at a cost of about $8 million. Such a facility could consolidate and haul 500 to 800 tons of trash per day to one of those regional landfills, according to the memo.
The third option proposes doing both.
A transfer station would need to be built and in place a year before the end of the landfill's life, the memo states.
"We have to really start talking about (solutions) today," Hall told commissioners Tuesday.
Commissioner Steve Child suggested two more options Tuesday, including establishing another landfill in Pitkin County. Hall later said that idea is likely not feasible considering land costs, the probability of neighborhood opposition and a lengthy permitting process.
Child's second idea was to build a sort of super-transfer station with conveyor belts to separate the trash into diversion streams that could be recycled or reused. He asked officials to look at what other places like Boulder and Sweden, which accepts trash from other countries, are doing with their refuse.
"We could try to achieve zero waste," he said. "Our days are limited unless we do something radically different."
Commissioner Patti Clapper asked if the county could simply stop accepting construction debris, though Hall later explained that construction waste dumping fees will likely pay for the transfer station and other solutions to the shrinking landfill problem.
In fact, Hall said landfill officials are looking at raising the construction debris dumping fees next year.
Commissioners George Newman, Rachel Richards and Clapper said they leaned toward supporting the third option officials presented, though all wanted more information.
Richards suggested starting a regional dialog and finding out, for example, if other area counties have landfill space Pitkin County might be able to invest in. She also said the public needs to understand the issue and suggested an early community outreach effort to explain the problem and the options to fix it.