Down in the dumps

By Sarah Pridgeon

The results of a study commissioned by the Crook County Solid Waste Joint Powers Board have provided no clear answer to the countywide problem of what to do with trash once the last landfill has closed. Discussions are ongoing, with some county entities still wanting to introduce a mill levy and form a true solid waste district and others feeling it would be more financially viable for each community to find its own solution.

Board members Sheryl Klocker, Sundance, and Kelly Dennis, county, provided an update on the study and resulting discussions last week. The board has been investigating possibilities, including a solid waste district that would construct a lined landfill to serve the entire Crook County community.

While Crook County’s last landfill, in Moorcroft, could continue to serve as a destination for trash for the next couple of years, said Klocker, Councilman Owen Mathews is pushing for a decision from the board and the entities it serves. Hoping to extend the life of the landfill, the Moorcroft Town Council is considering closing the landfill to outside garbage.

“With that in mind, they could keep Moorcroft open for another three years, whereas if they keep working the way they are now, it will only be two years of space,” said Klocker.

For Moorcroft, this would push the problem of finding a place willing to accept its garbage for a total of five years. For the rest of the county, it would mean finding an alternative destination for trash immediately.

Commissioner Jeanne Whalen questioned what Sundance would do if Moorcroft no longer accepted the city’s trash. Klocker responded that her first best guess would be to haul trash to Belle Fourche.

“For the time being, I would assume we go to Belle Fourche, though we have nothing permitted across state lines,” she said.

If no mill levy is passed, said Klocker, each town and the county would need to figure out its own solution. At present, Sundance and Moorcroft use city-run waste services and the Moorcroft landfill, while Hulett and Pine Haven rely on a private contractor to take care of their trash and could conceivably continue to do so once the landfill closes.

“Hulett and Pine Haven are still looking for the most feasible mode of getting rid of their garbage, which is why they’re still with the group,” she said.

The problem, she explained, is that the study suggests that an efficient solid waste district would require two to three times as much tonnage as Crook County produces. Costs for trash service vary across the communities; the figures imply that a solid waste district could save some residents some money, said Klocker, but not all.

It would cost approximately $2 million to build and line a new landfill according to DEQ regulations, said Dennis.

“There’s the huge cost: getting your pit ready,” he said, noting that the landfill would continue to incur costs after it was completed, such as labor and daily cover.

Two new potential solutions are now being considered after Mayor Steve Sproul, Moorcroft, introduced two guests at the meeting, said Klocker. Ret Albers from eastern South Dakota told the board that he has been involved in landfill planning and operating with several communities with an emphasis on the reduction of waste.

Using chippers, tire shredders, recycling and more, Albers estimated that he would be able to reduce garbage levels by as much as two thirds, which would extend the lifespan of the Moorcroft landfill considerably.

The second guest, Bruce Cundy of CW Waste, suggested an alternative to a solid waste district in the form of a cooperative, much like Powder River Energy. Selling shares would allow the cooperative to begin the process of buying land, digging, permitting and operating a regional landfill.

Both guests have been asked to attend the next meeting of the board to give proposals.

Klocker reported that no decisions were reached at the meeting, but shared her opinion that a regional solution may be more important than it seems. She shared the words of Moorcroft Councilman Paul Smoot, who once worked for the nation’s largest disposal company in Ohio.

When he first started, Klocker said, customers were paying $40 a month for their garbage. Facing similar issues to Crook County, the company found itself buying land, permitting and hauling garbage 200 miles away; by the time he left, costs had risen to $140 a month.

“It means a lot for us to be able to control the cost,” said Klocker, stressing that this can best be achieved with a countywide solution as it gives the county control of how things develop into the future. “Not knowing costs a lot of money.”