By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A new landfill for north-central Montana is slowly in the making, and the households of Blaine, Hill and Chouteau counties are slowly paying for it.
The budgets for those counties include a $7 increase in the landfill tax charged to each property owner, bringing the new total to $60 each for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Hill County sanitarian Clay Vincent, who is a member of the multi-county board that oversees the Unified Disposal Landfill east of Havre, expects that the current landfill will last another five years. Trash is compacted and spread 250 feet above the spot where the first layers were placed in 1982.
In 1990 the state issued new requirements for landfills, including a liner that can cost more than $1 million. The new landfill will need one.
The $7 increase was voted on during the Aug. 26 meeting of the Unified Disposal Board.
The purpose was to avoid the need for a $30 increase in five years, Vincent said.
The board hopes to raise enough money to pay for the new landfill but may also need to consider issuing bonds if the cost estimate rises, Vincent said.
The dirt that is used daily to cover the landfill's growing trash heap comes from a pit beside the current site, the likely spot for the next landfill.
"Millions of yards have already been pulled out," Vincent said.
The new landfill will include a drainage system. The liquid that collects in the million-dollar liner will be piped to a small pool to be evaporated, or sent to be treated, Vincent said.
A series of wells beside the landfill allows water below the site to be tested. If contamination were found, water would be pumped out and evaporated, Vincent said.
"It is just getting rid of garbage, but we need to do this right or people in the future are going to be mad at us," Vincent said.
Vincent has a few suggestions for people that can save the landfill's staff some headaches, and possibly save the taxpayers money. Plastic grocery bags are a big nuisance, Vincent said. They don't take much room, but the wind picks them up and they create a real pollution problem. Employees waste time chasing them around, he added.
Vincent's solution - reuse them as trash can liners, or, tie the bag in a knot before throwing it away.
Vincent also encourages people to use the recycling bin outside the Havre Day Activity Center for cardboard and aluminum cans.
The 1982 landfill was a vast improvement over the previous methods of waste disposal, Vincent said.
In the past, each community would simply dump trash into a coulee. At landfills, dirt is spread over the garbage, limiting the spread of rodents and disease.