EAGLE — So far, Eagle County has a green light to proceed with a vertical expansion of its landfill.
Eagle County commissioners approved the land use special use permit on April 30. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is reviewing the permit concurrently, and Ken Whitehead, the county’s director of solid waste and recycling, anticipates approval from that entity as well.
The vertical expansion will increase the height of the active landfill by 83 feet, utilizing 2.6 million cubic yards of airspace and adding 10 years to the life of the landfill.
“This will help keep our tipping fees among the lowest in the region, and that will give Eagle County businesses a competitive edge,” Whitehead said. “The projected life of the landfill is about 100 years. The county has done smart planning, because once you lose this landfill, you’re probably not going to get another one and you’ll have to haul trash somewhere else, which will be much more expensive. So the longer you can keep this one operational, the better.”
Whitehead first proposed the idea of vertical expansion in February 2012, when a problem with the slope of garbage at the landfill was discovered. The slope was steeper than what it was originally permitted to be. At that time, the commissioners gave Whitehead permission to develop an amendment to proceed with modifying the slopes and height, and update the design and operation plan for the landfill — an effort estimated to cost up to $120,000.
“We’ll begin making side-slope modifications as soon as we get a permit from the CDPHE,” Whitehead said Tuesday.
If the CDPHE approves the re-permitting, then the next step is getting approval from the Bureau of Land Management. Then a task order would be brought before the commissioners for approval, followed by a public hearing.
“It will be a process and the board of county commissioners has the opportunity to pull the plug whenever it wants if it decides it’s not in the county’s best interest,” Whitehead said.
The biggest negative potential impact of vertical expansion would be visual but Whitehead predicts that would be minimal.
“If you drive up to Red Sky Ranch — the landfill is about three miles away — and look across the valley, you could see it but I don’t think you would notice it. It would be a brown mound in front of a brown hill,” Whitehead said.
Residents in the area were given notice and so far no one has come forward to oppose the vertical expansion.
Whitehead suspects that using vertical space at the landfill wasn’t planned during the original permitting process 20 years ago because landfill space was cheap then.
“Twenty years ago, it might not have been worthwhile to deal with steep side slopes,” he said. “Now landfill space is harder to come by.”
Commissioner Sara Fisher used the opportunity to remind the community that Eagle County residents are entitled to dump 1,600 pounds and up to four tires for free each year. That amount is approximately equal to two loads in a pickup truck, said Commissioner Jon Stavney.
“That’s correct, all they need are two forms of identification with an address that proves they are residents,” Whitehead said.