Alan Sorensen Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Unified Disposal Landfill board took the first step Wednesday toward a possible new landfill southeast of Havre by approving the purchase of 160 acres southeast of Havre. But the board’s unanimous decision to purchase the land about 3.5 miles east of Havre and about a mile south of U.S. Highway 2 won’t mean it will be taking in garbage any time soon, according to the Helena engineer who said he has been pushing the board for years to relocate its landfill. “The Department of Environmental Quality is going to have to write off that there is no threat that this thing will affect your groundwater,” Havre Barry Damschen told a group of concerned nearby landowners. Damschen said the board will have to make application to the state for approval. After that, he said, the DEQ will perform an environmental assessment on the property, make its findings public, take public comment on the proposal and scrutinize its findings. “There are a lot of checks and balances here,” Damschen said. The board reached its decision near the conclusion of a 2 1/4-hour public meeting at the Hill County Detention Center in which several area residents voiced their opposition. Damschen began the 11 a.m. meeting by presenting comparative costs of putting in a new landfill or expanding the existing landfill. The new landfill, he said, would be good for about 100 years, while expanding locations on the north and west sides of the existing landfill would account for another 45 years of use at an acre per year. The new site would absorb considerable onetime costs, he said, but its savings in annual operating costs would make up the difference in 10 years While the cost of the 160 acres is $192,000, the largest single expense would be putting in a new road or paving an existing road, he said. Road work required to the existing site is nil, he said, but the estimated cost of a road to the new site is about $2,100,000 and roadwork at the site would be about $100,000. A couple more one-time costs at the new site would be $300,000 for general site work and fencing and $200,000 for an equipment building. The total cost difference in capital costs at the two sites would be about $2.9 million if the existing site were expanded by 45 acres to the west and north. Damschen said what he called the current footprint at the existing landfill will run out of space in two to three years. At that time, he said, the landfill board would be required to lay down a liner at a cost of about $205,000 per acre on the north site and about $264,000 at the west to prevent pollutants from seeping into groundwater. The new location would cost about $350,000 less to operate each year, he said. The quality of the soil and lack of groundwater would require no liner or groundwater testing, what he called “big ticket items.” He characterized the new site as ideal. He ranked it as the best site in the state. “I have sited all (23 landfills in the state) in the last 20 years,” Damschen said at a meeting last month, “and I have never found one better than this, so I gave it an A-plus. It’s basically a slam dunk.” The biggest attraction, he said, is the composition of the soil. He said the heavy concentration of clay and the existence of hundreds of feet of bear paw shale beneath that are natural barriers to water migration. In his cost estimates Wednesday, Damschen said the annual cost of operating an expansion at the existing site would be about $589,00 over a 45- year period. The cost of operating the new site, including amortization, he said, would be about $383,000 over a 100-year period. The annual cost of hauling trash to the landfills was estimated at $264,000 for roundtrips to the existing landfill 10 miles east of Havre and $120,000 for the trips to and from the new site 4.5 miles from the center of town. The bottom line is the cost per ton of garbage at each of the two sites, he said $38.77 per ton at the existing expanded site and $22.86 at the new site. “My recommendation to these guys,” said Damschen, referring to the board, “as it always has been, is this is the opportunity of a lifetime.” Several people voiced concerns ranging from garbage along the road from people who don’t properly tie down their loads, flying debris from the landfill itself, polluted groundwater, surface water runoff and devalued properties. The concern voiced by most people, including members of the board, was the location of a road to the site. Two roads currently go directly to the 160-acre site, both off Clear Creek Road. The first road is the first turn to the left after the dike bridge a half mile out of town. The second is a turn to the north about 2.5 miles from town. Neither is paved. Trucks from the south, west, east and north would have to enter Havre and follow 14th Avenue out to the Clear Creek Road. Members from the east, before voting, were particularly adamant about not wanting to come all the way into Havre to get to the landfill. “They comment on bringing a truck into Havre and then out again,” board member Freda Bryson of Chinook said of the people she’d talked with in Chinook. “They are really upset.” A third alternative Vincent mentioned was building a road south from U.S. Highway 2 atop the hill about 3.5 miles east of Havre. The county has an easement on a 30-foot-wide half-section line. Vincent said the county would have to acquire another 30 feet to make the road wide enough for traffic. Once it leaves the highway, the road would cross unpopulated land to the site. Board members were unanimous in their support of a cutacross road from U.S. 2. Regardless of the road location, Vincent said, he is working to line up 4-H clubs to police the road to and the area around the landfill. Anchor Academy boys had been doing the job, but the boys will no longer be available when the academy closes its compound north of Havre and moves to Missouri. “There is no such thing as a perfect site,” City Public Works Director Dave Peterson said. He added that he agreed with a suggestion voiced earlier in the meeting by Gerry Veis of Havre. Veis suggested buying the 160 acres and still using the existing site. Damschen said the DEQ also concerns itself with issues beyond the site, including dust and noise at the site and along the road to the site.