Solid waste officials brief Pitkin commissioners on projects |

Solid waste officials brief Pitkin commissioners on projects

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

From planning a new septic-wastewater-treatment facility to working with local municipalities on recycling initiatives to expanding the local landfill, the Pitkin County Solid Waste Center has a lot on its plate.

On Tuesday, Cathy Hall, the county’s solid waste manager, and Brian Pettet, public works director, gave Pitkin County commissioners an overview of the numerous projects and programs that are either underway or planned for 2015 and beyond.

Commissioners in February approved a lateral expansion of the county landfill, a project that aims to add 10 years to the life of the facility. Commissioners already have approved $135,000 for expansion design and permitting efforts, but the estimated $880,000 for construction has yet to be allocated.

Hall said the county is drafting an expansion permit, which will be submitted to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for approval early next year. The draft permit will include results of a geotechnical drilling survey to determine soil stability and groundwater depth.

“As you are all aware, we are limited on landfill capacity,” Hall said. “As we stand today, we probably have about 19 years left of our (capacity).”

Pettet told commissioners that once the state approves the permit, construction can begin at any point afterward.

“You could construct that (expansion) at anytime,” he said. “You wouldn’t have to do it right away; another board could do it in the future based on the permit that the state issues.”

Hall said permitting discussions with state officials already have begun and there are no foreseeable problems. Moving along in the presentation as well as commenting after the meeting, she described many other efforts that also carry the goal of extending the life of the landfill and improving environmental services for local residents.


Currently, county residents that have their own septic systems, which are onsite sewage facilities, must rely on expensive options for having the waste removed.

“Right now, there is no place in Pitkin County to dispose of that waste,” Hall said. “There are 3,000 septic tanks in Pitkin County.”

Hall said the closest depository is the South Canyon Landfill in Glenwood Springs. But that facility reaches capacity early in the day, forcing septic haulers to travel to Rifle or farther.

“Residents are paying a really high cost (for septic-waste removal),” Hall said.

In October 2013, commissioners approved $615,000 for initial funding to evaluate the feasibility of building a septic-wastewater-treatment center at the landfill. The money also is to be used to complete its design and begin construction.

Last month, following a request for proposals, the county awarded a preliminary contract to Weaver Boos Consultants and its partner SEH Inc. to handle the design of the new system. Both companies have offices in Colorado.

Hall sought to assure commissioners that the project will proceed on a task-by-task basis. The total project cost has yet to be determined.

“Next month, we are going to the board with (information) on feasibility and costs,” she said. “That will give the board an option. If it’s getting out of control or too expensive, we can stop the project at any time.”

“The board is in control every step of the way,” Pettet said.

Having a septic-wastewater-treatment system at the local landfill hopefully will lead to reduced costs and added convenience for county residents, Hall said. It also could assist the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport by providing a nearby facility for treating propylene glycol, a de-icing fluid.

There are other practical applications for the system. It’s estimated that the facility would produce up to 2.5 million gallons of effluent water annually. About 500,000 gallons could be used at the Solid Waste Center for fire and dust suppression, washing vehicles and compost operations.

The county obtained a $124,250 grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to assist with a study of the effluent water’s potential uses, both onsite and off. A final feasibility report on the water use is expected by March 2016.

If all goes well, construction on the wastewater-treatment system could start by April 2016, Hall said.


Hall also spoke of various programs that are underway or being planned. Some involve partnerships with Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt.

One is called “zero-waste planning,” but as some commissioners pointed out, it’s impossible to completely eliminate waste.

The goal with that initiative is to create a plan to identify areas of waste diversion not currently being captured by recycling programs, Hall said in a memorandum. A study will commence in early 2015 to be completed in the summer of 2016.

“Zero waste is sort of a misnomer; no one has yet achieved zero anything going into the landfill,” Hall said. “Some communities are making some pretty strong headway.”

A meeting will be held today between county solid waste officials and representatives of the city of Aspen to discuss needs. The “municipal stakeholders” of Snowmass Village and Basalt also were invited to the table, Hall said.

“We’re looking at about an $80,000 plan,” she told commissioners. “We are looking to the city of Aspen to cost-share in that plan.”

“Zero waste” could include electronics and paint recycling, separate food-waste collections from restaurants and grocery stores for composting and other measures, Hall said.