County dump attracts out-of-county trash |

County dump attracts out-of-county trash

Tamara Miller
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyJesse Echtler, right, Trey Milhoan, middle, and Scott Jones throw out old fence boards Tuesday at the Eagle County Landfill north of Wolcott. About 10 percent of the trash dumped at the landfill comes from Garfield, Pitkin, Routt, and Summit counties.

EAGLE COUNTY – Low tipping fees and a central location have made Eagle County’s dump an attractive home for thousands of pounds of out-of-county trash. About 10 percent of the 99,000 tons of trash dumped at the Eagle County Landfill last year came from residents, construction companies and trash haulers from neighboring counties like Garfield, Summit, Routt and Pitkin, said Ron Rasnic, manager of Eagle County’s landfill.Eagle County’s landfill is far from being full, though. In 2003, the county purchased 730 acres for future expansion from the Bureau of Land Management. The landfill still has about 12 more years until it will fill the 63 acres it currently is permitted to use, Rasnic said.

“We have plenty of room to expand in,” he said. Pitkin County does not. Its landfill is between 15 years and 17 years away from being full and there’s no room for expansion, said Justina Potter, office manager for that county’s landfill. That’s one of the reasons why Pitkin County charges users more to dump trash there. The higher tip fees are used to offset the costs of the county’s more aggressive recycling program, Potter said. It’s one of the few in the area, for example, that recycles rock, dirt and concrete from construction sites so that it can be purchased for new products, Potter said. By encouraging residents to recycle, Pitkin County officials hope that less trash gets thrown in the dump. In 2001, Pitkin County threw away 144,000 cubic yards of trash. In 2003, that figure was 90,000 cubic yards, according to Chris Hoofnagle, director of Pitkin County’s waste and recycling program.Decreases elsewherePart of the drop in Pitkin County trash collection could be due to the economy, Potter said. About 50 percent of the junk dumped in the county landfill is from construction waste. Local construction activity lagged with the downturn in the national economy following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but it is starting to pick up again, she said.Potter didn’t know if Pitkin County’s drop in trash collection is because some construction companies are using Eagle County’s landfill instead. Pitkin County’s tip fees are calculated differently – by yard rather than by ton – which makes them more expensive: Eagle County charges construction companies $47.45 per ton while Pitkin County charges by $21 per cubic yard. County commissioners set the tip fees for the county landfill. “I don’t know if that’s the reason, but we’ve been aware that some of the larger construction haulers are definitely going over there,” Potter said. “We would love to know how much does leave our county.”

Rasnic doesn’t how much of the out-of-county trash comes from Pitkin County, either. It’s difficult to tell where the trash is coming from just by looking at the names and phone numbers listed on the side of trucks coming into landfill, Rasnic said. Basalt and El Jebel are part of Eagle County, yet there are Aspen-area construction companies and trash haulers that work in that part of the county.Central locationSome of the trash comes from the southern part of Routt County because the landfill in Wolcott is closer. Eagle County’s landfill also is just as close to Glenwood Spring as the Garfield County landfill in Rifle, Rasnic said. On windy days, Summit County sometimes will close its hillside landfill in Dillon because it becomes a litter or safety problem. On those days, at least one Summit County trash company will just go to Eagle County’s landfill rather than waiting for it to re-open, said Ric Poceus, Summit County public works director. It’s not unusual for Summit County to receive trash that originated in East Vail, either. There is some misperception in the public about how successful or unsuccessful Eagle County’s recycling programs have been in comparison to Pitkin County, he said. Eagle County landfill officials try to sort out most of the metal and wood that can be recycled – the metal is hauled away and the wood is ground into wood chips that anyone can have for free, Rasnic said. Still, the amount of waste dumped in the Eagle County landfill has increased over the years, particularly as construction has increased, he said. Out-of-county trash could increase, too, as Pitkin County’s landfill nears capacity, he said. “That’s an issue that we may have to face down the road,” Rasnic said.

For more information about tipping fees for Eagle County and surrounding counties log on Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or, Colorado

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