Pitkin County solid waste center projects moving forward

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

Staff from the county solid-waste center updated Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday on the landfill expansion, installation of the septic-wastewater-treatment system, relocation of the shooting range and conversion to single-stream recycling at the county-operated centers.

Cathy Hall, the solid-waste manager, explained how those projects are managed, where funding and labor resources have been allocated and how the landfill site can most effectively accommodate the projects.


The commissioners approved the landfill expansion and appropriated $135,000 for the permitting process in February. The county’s solid-waste consulting firm, Weaver Boos Consultants, is working to permit the operation. The new expansion area will be located on the northwest side of the landfill with one year of use left in the current landfill.

The expansion permit requires geotechnical drilling to determine soil stability, collect bedrock cores and depth to groundwater.

The drilling is scheduled for the week of Aug. 11 with the results expected to be submitted to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in November. Hall said the proposed expansion will add an estimated 10 years of life to the landfill and more than $12 million in revenue during the next decade.


At the end of 2013, the county hired SGM Inc. to provide general engineering services for the wastewater-treatment system. SGM will identify the appropriate system for the county septic-waste disposal and start the permitting process for the system.

The permitting process is expected to take between six and nine months to complete. Hall expects the actual installation of the system to begin in the summer of 2015.

Once the septic-wastewater system is operational, SGM estimates septic haulers to bring in 40,000 gallons per day from May through October.

Waste-center staff now estimates the county will produce more than 2 million gallons annually of effluent water. The county recently was awarded a $149,500 grant from WaterSMART and will use the funds to determine the best use and potential sales of the effluent.

Staff originally estimated the cost of a new wastewater system at $735,000, but now that total is closer to $3 million.

“The system we’re now looking at will take us 25 to 30 years down the road,” Hall said.

Commissioner Rachel Richards was hesitant to endorse the idea of a new wastewater system until more investigative work was completed concerning odor impacts. Commissioner Rob Ittner said he was hoping to find new ways to motivate Pitkin County residents to clear out their septic tanks, while Commissioner Michael Owsley said he thinks the effluent could be used to cut down the dust problem on the landfill roads.

“It’s one of the biggest irritants from the landfill,” Owsley said. “It covers Woody Creek and Aspen Village. If we can solve that problem with the effluent, we’ve done a tremendous job.”


The shooting range currently is located in the northeast part of the waste center, above Highway 82. The plan is to move the range to the furthest area away from people at the landfill, which is the southwest corner of the property

Besides the noise mitigation, there’s also an issue with lead contamination in the soil around the current range location from 30 years of use. It’s estimated the shooting range sees about 100,000 rounds of ammunition spent there annually.

“We’re working with the Sheriff’s Office to design a new range,” said Brian Pettet, the director of public works for Pitkin County. “First we need to sort and stabilize the soils at the current location. It’s going to take $180,000 to remediate the existing area. If we’re going to move the range, we need to take care of the old one.”

Owsley said the Sheriff’s Office needs to take responsibility for the remediation of the shooting range.

“They need to say, ‘This is our shooting range, we’ve used it for 30 years, we built it without permission, we thought it was a good idea and now we’re faced with some consequences, which is remediation.’” Owsley said.


In April, the county privatized the recycling collection at the Rio Grande, Redstone and the landfill recycling areas to Waste Management. The transition included creating single-stream recycling. Single stream involves putting all recyclable material into a single bin and material separation is no longer required.

The Rio Grande center in Aspen has seen an increase in use of 20 percent since April. The Rio Grande site has required an increase in the number of bins as well as a more frequent pick-up schedule, resulting in an increase in cost for service. Cost sharing with the city of Aspen has been discussed, and a survey currently is being completed to determine who is using Rio Grande for their recycling needs.

In March, the town of Basalt closed its recycling center and recycling was diverted to Waste Management’s transfer station in Willits, a privately operated facility with limited hours. Waste management experienced an increase in recycling drop off nearly 10 times of the quantity prior to the Basalt site closing. Customers now can either separate recyclables into individual bins or dump all recyclables together in single-stream fashion in Willits.

In Redstone, the community association negotiated a recycling location behind the water plant.

With Basalt closing its center, the county recycling budget is now $30,000 less than the original amount of $180,700.


The waste center purchased the Aspen Valley Hospital’s ambulance tent for $21,000 to be used as the full-time home for the household hazardous waste center. The center will be staffed full-time with environmental controls to keep the area protected from the elements.