Pitkin County landfill expansion project nearly complete
A more than $2 million expansion of the Pitkin County Landfill slated to add between six and eight years of life to the facility, which is rapidly running out of room, is nearly complete, an official said Friday.
Without the five-acre northern expansion, which is likely to be finished in the next three weeks, the landfill would be full in about two years depending on the inflow, said Cathy Hall, the county’s solid waste director.
“We would be scrambling to build a transfer station to long-haul trash out (without the expansion),” she said. “It will be a big relief.”
Pitkin County commissioners, in fact, were contemplating building an $8 million transfer station a few years back before the current expansion site was identified when it looked like the landfill was going to fill up and close years sooner than anticipated.
The new five-acre expansion area should increase the landfill’s capacity by about 900,000 cubic yards. Construction crews are about half-way through the process of installing a liner in that area, and should be done in about three weeks, Hall said.
State inspectors likely will check out the work early next year and if they sign off on it, the area will begin accepting trash soon after, she said. For the first year, the new section will only receive household trash that is unlikely to poke holes in the liner.
Still, even with the expansion, Pitkin County’s Landfill will only last another 10 years at most without another expansion, said Hall and Pitkin County Public Works Director Brian Pettet.
Landfill officials have identified another section to the north of the facility where a much larger expansion could occur. However, that project will require much more engineering and construction — including a new access road — than the current expansion, though it would add 5.6 million cubic yards and 30-to-40 years more life to the facility.
Hall said she plans on working on the design for the larger expansion next year, while Pettet said he hopes to submit plans for the expansion to the state next year.
The life of the landfill is mainly contingent on construction in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, Pettet said.
“We’re working to expand the life of the landfill as much as we can,” he said. “It’s really incumbent on the construction industry.”
In other words, the undying need for constant construction in the Aspen area is filling up the landfill more than anything else. Debris from the former Sky Hotel — torn down in 2017 to make way for the W Hotel — took up the equivalent of 3,000 people’s yearly trash output when it was deposited in the landfill.
Two other local hotels — the Molly Gibson Lodge and the Hotel Aspen — are scheduled to be torn down in the near future and almost certainly will significantly increase the amount of material in the landfill, Hall has said. Whatever happens with the Lift 1A development also will contribute to filling up the facility with mine tailings and other debris.
Pettet said local contractors have been receptive to diversion efforts.
“What we’re finding is a lot of contractors don’t want to throw this material away and want to do the right thing,” he said. “They’re coming to the table to try and divert it.”
With an eye toward diverting as much of that construction debris as possible, Pitkin County has come up with two ideas.
The first is a construction and demolition ordinance that requires developers to put down a deposit of $1,000 a ton of estimated waste for a project. If the developer is able to divert 25% or more of that waste to recycling or other reusable streams, the deposit is returned.
The second is a store to be built at the landfill called “Motherlode Mercantile,” a 4,000-square-foot materials reuse center that will offer furniture, building materials, lighting and plumbing fixtures, reusable lumber, doors and windows, landscaping materials, decorative items and sporting goods for sale.
All landfill projects, including the expansion and the reuse center, will be paid for with funds generated by the landfill and not with taxpayer money, Hall said.
The chief operating officer of RH recently said the retailer’s presence will invigorate downtown Aspen by day and wake it up at night, but they’ll need some help from the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission.
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