- Cheyenne, WY residents who attended a public hearing by the state Department of Environmental Quality expressed concern about possible well water contamination if the city adds more than 7.2 million cubic yards to the near-capacity Happy Jack Landfill. The expansion would allow the city to cut $1.2 million a year on hauling trash to the North Weld Landfill near Ault, CO, as it has since 2008.
- The hearing focused on the city's application for an exception to state rules dealing with the distance that landfills must be set back from homes and wells. Twenty-four homes would be within the one-mile limit, Public Works Director Vicki Nemecek said.
- Luke Esch, the DEQ's solid and hazardous wastes administrator, is recommending that the variance be approved as long as the expansion includes additional liners and other barriers to prevent contamination. He said geologic modeling of the landfill property indicated any contamination would take 230 years to get from the liner through the unsaturated soil zone to the saturated soil zone. DEQ plans to install monitoring wells on the landfill property to try to catch contamination before it reaches any drinking water wells.
The DEQ has 60 days to decide on the variance, but residents are clearly unconvinced. Under state law, the city could have gotten consent from all 24 property owners, but Nemecek said only three signed agreements.
The city seems to have few options. Two landfills within 50 miles are unwilling to take its trash, and the existing landfill is nearly full. The Happy Jack Landfill expansion would extend its life by 33 years, allowing for 100,000 more tons of municipal solid waste and construction demolition waste, Wyoming News reported.
The drinking water issue is clearly top of mind for residents, as residents asked officials which entity would be responsible if water was contaminated. If any contamination were found, the DEQ would identify remediation options and then hold a public meeting.
Landfill expansions are rarely popular overall, but the DEQ appears to be keeping residents informed at each step.