SAGUACHE — The Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) attended a special session convened during the Saguache County Commissioners Tuesday work session last week to address repeated landfill violations by the county.
Those attending the meeting discussed the issuance of a CDPHE compliance order to the county to correct problems at the landfill. A representative from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, David Kreutzer, also was present for the meeting.
CDPHE department officials opened the meeting by asking commissioners if they had any questions regarding the violations discovered May 30 and Oct. 16. They noted that several of the violations, such as windblown trash and failure to monitor wells at the landfill, were old and recurring. Also mentioned was the failure of Saguache County to drill test wells at the landfill as ordered by CDPHE in 2015.
Commissioner Jason Anderson told CDPHE officials he is aware that Saguache is only one of many rural counties in the state having problems meeting state requirements for landfills and recycling. Anderson said recycling is important to Saguache County residents and the county is committed to continuing it, but circumstances have changed and the county’s present recyclers are not able to make ends meet. Ed Smith with CDPHE told Anderson recycling violations are not a recurring issue.
During the course of the meeting, commissioners and Landfill Supervisor Randal Arredondo discussed the possibility of closing the landfill, even though commissioners voted 2-1 at their Aug. 7 meeting to keep the landfill open and possibly provide a transfer station to one part of the county. According to meeting minutes, Commissioner Jason Anderson made the comment he doesn’t feel the county should be in the trash business.
During the special meeting Nov. 13, one attendee reported, CDPHE officials told commissioners they have an obligation to county residents to keep the landfill open for health and safety reasons. CDPHE provided a comparison chart of what it would cost the county annually to operate the landfill.
Total costs to keep the landfill open, including permitting costs, new cell construction, cell closure costs, gas monitoring, personnel costs, equipment expenses, compliance costs and other expenses would run $589,896 a year. By comparison, transfer station costs would run $318,729 and waste hauling from the county to other facilities would cost $174,100 a year.
According to minutes from the June 19 BoCC meeting, Commissioner Lovato commented he feels the landfill is a service to the community that transfer stations cannot provide. Arredondo explained he is looking at the fiscal aspect of both and feels transfer stations would be a more fiscally responsible decision, as just the liner for the expansion cell alone would cost in excess of $200,000.
Arredondo also explained he feels transfer stations would be more beneficial to the county population as several could be located around the county, and citizens would not have to drive as far from their homes to get to one.
During the Nov. 13 meeting, Arredondo told CDPHE he is working with CDPHE’s Eric Jacobs on a proposed plan to resolve the compliance issues. The plan was scheduled to be submitted by Friday, Nov. 16 and would consist of:
1. One new gas well each year
2. Recycle area to get cleaned up, plan with the state to salvage the aluminum and plastic.
3. Eight-foot fence is now mobile.
Following negotiations, commissioners unanimously agreed to work with CDPHE on a consent compliance order to resolve the landfill violations in the following order:
1. The State will issue a compliance order.
2. A schedule will be agreed upon to resolve issues.
3. The compliance order will be issued on consent.
4. A settlement conference will be scheduled
5. A schedule for compliance will be created and
6. The document will be reviewed and confirmed.
The following is a summary of recent inspections in Saguache County conducted by CDPHE, quoted directly from CDPHE documents.
CDPHE Oct. 16, 2018 inspection
Wolf Kray with CDPHE’s Hazard Management and Waste Management Division inspected the landfill on Oct. 16. According to CDPEH reports, Kray found:
• A stockpile of mixed waste and materials stored on the ground under a sign reading “San Luis Valley Regional Recycling Facility.” At the time of the inspection, the estimated size of the stockpile was 50 yards by 50 yards of mixed materials stored on the ground. In the middle of the stockpile, four bunkers which appeared to contain glass and plastics was visible.
The stockpile of materials included a mix of paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic containers/bags/film/toes/barrels, glass, appliances, electronics, wood pallets, mattresses, and a large amount of non-recyclable solid waste. All large quantity of the paper and cardboard was degrading from being stored outside with exposure to rain and snow.
• Along both sides of the north facility fence and boundary, a high degree of windblown debris was observed, comprised of plastic containers, plastic film/bags, paper and cardboard. Bill Burch explained that he was the operator of the recycling program for Waste Free SLV and there is no additional funds remaining for Waste Free SLV to pay for removing the stockpile.
Because the recyclables are stored on the ground, commingled with contaminants, dirt and degraded by exposure to precipitation and the sun, it will be very difficult to recycle the stockpile. The improper storage of the stockpiled materials and the offsite windblown debris constitutes illegal disposal of solid waste.
The facility was in apparent violation of the Act and the Regulations on the day of the inspection. The following apparent violations were found:
Deficiency 1: The facility does not have the proper storage and equipment in place to meet the minimum site and facility standards for conducting recycling operations. The mismanaged and discarded stockpile is therefore solid waste. This is a violation of CRS 30-20-102(5), Section 8.2.3 and Section 8.1.3 of the regulations.
May 30, 2018 CDPHE visit
CDPHE inspectors reported the following findings in violation of state regulations:
• The facility did not place adequate cover over disposed solid waste.
• The facility did not prevent waste materials from accumulating along the fence line and leaving the site.
• The facility did not install three (3) new gas monitoring wells at the site by the end of 2015 as required by Section 5.5.1 of the facility’s current Engineering Design and Operations Plan (revised November 2014).
• The facility does not have an eight-foot chain link fence around the perimeter of active excavation areas as required by Section 6.3 of the facility’s current Engineering Design and Operations Plan (revised November 2014).
Groundwater contamination report August 2018
Eight sampling events were performed over a three-year period to establish background water- quality concentrations. With the completion of the background period at the end of 2015, this 1H18 sampling event is the fifth following background.
Review of the groundwater monitoring results indicate that there are no unexpected organic parameters and only the continued low-level detections of tetrachloroethene in well MW-1 at 1.1 ug/L (reporting limit is 1.0 ug/L). Since 2014, tetrachloroethene concentrations at MW-1 have ranged from 1.1 ug/L to 2.0 ug/L.
The second half of 2018 monitoring reports, according to a CDPHE Nov. 7, 2018 email, shows that “all data are consistent with prior sampling events,” including the continued low-level detections of tetrachloroethene in well MW-1, which tested at 1.9 levels.
Landfill supervisor Arredondo was notified by letter Oct. 24 that the second half of the Groundwater Monitoring report for 2018 shows that the county is currently in “corrective action status” regarding its contaminated wells because of the consistently low levels of contaminants in the wells and the issuance of letters to adjacent property owners in March regarding the contamination.
Saguache County also was required to remove tons of tires from the landfill site this July.