Smaller Pitkin County landfill expansion approved
The state of Colorado has preliminarily signed off on plans to expand Pitkin County’s landfill and buy another five to six years of life for the facility, which is nearly full, officials said last week.
“That’s really significant,” said Cathy Hall, the county’s solid waste manager. “We’re getting on a time crunch, probably with only four years left, so the sooner we can start (expanding) it will help me sleep at night.”
Pitkin County submitted plans to the state this summer outlining an increase of about 5 contiguous acres to the north of the current landfill, located off Highway 82 about 10 miles downvalley from Aspen. The expansion would increase the landfill’s capacity by about 900,000 cubic yards, which translates to nearly six more years.
Without a further expansion, the increase will mean that Pitkin County’s landfill will last until 2031 or so, officials have said.
In a recent phone call with county officials, state officials from the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment outlined several things they wanted clarified but otherwise signed off on the northern expansion project, Hall said.
Once the approval becomes official, the state will open the project to a 30-day public comment period, then issue a permit if all goes according to plan, she said.
“Given that no significant public comment arises, I think we can start construction by next spring,” Hall said.
Once the northern expansion is underway, Hall and other county officials will begin studying a much larger proposed landfill expansion to the south of the facility. That recently identified area would expand the landfill’s capacity by 5.6 million cubic yards and provide another 30 to 40 years of life provided the amount of trash remains constant, officials have said.
That project will involve far more engineering and construction than the northern expansion, as well as increased state scrutiny, permits and expenses. Still, Hall thinks that provided the engineering works, state officials understand the county’s landfill predicament and would likely approve it.
The real unknown with the southern expansion are nearby residents, including those in Woody Creek who would be able to see the southern flank of the facility, she said.
“We can figure out pretty quick if the state will go for it,” Hall said. “The residents are the big unknown. I give the southern (expansion) a 50-50 chance.”
Messages left Friday for two officials with the Department of Health and the Environment seeking comment about the expansion were not returned.
Pitkin County commissioners had talked about spending about $8 million on a new transfer station to facilitate shipping hundreds of tons of trash per day to regional landfills once the county’s landfill was full. That idea, however, was taken off the table when the southern expansion area was identified in early 2018.
County officials are trying other things as well to squeeze more life out of the landfill. Hall and County Manager Jon Peacock pointed to Pitkin County’s diversion rate of 37% as second-highest in the state behind Boulder County as one main strategy.
Diversion includes the highly successful and profitable composting program as well as efforts to divert as much construction waste as possible, they said.
“We’re doing really well on that,” Peacock said.
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