Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The initial environmental assessment of a proposed new landfill just east of Havre conducted by the state Department of Environmental Quality has been released, and the public has been invited to provide comments on the assessment including at a public meeting scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6. The draft of the assessment, available online or through the DEQ, found little harmful impact from building the new landfill, despite concerns raised by people neighboring the site. DEQ will accept comments on the report through Wednesday, Aug. 19. Hill County Sanitarian Clay Vincent said this morning that the engineers hired by the county to study the proposed site, about 3.5 miles east of Havre and south of U.S. Highway 2, have been working with the DEQ to provide information and upgrade the plans for the site to meet environmental regulations. “We’ve finally got everything in place,” he said. The Unified Disposal Board that oversees the operation of the landfill, which serves Hill, Blaine and northern Chouteau counties, has been looking for a way to reduce costs that will increase significantly if the current site is still used. Regulations put in place in the 1990s, about 10 years after the current landfill was built, require the installation of a liner for each site prepared to hold trash at the current location, with an estimated additional cost of $1 million for each spot dug to hold the trash. The board has requested the state license 160 acres for a new landfill, of which about 90 acres would be used over its anticipated 110-year life to dispose solid waste. Vincent said that once the public meeting is held and comments collected, DEQ will make the decision whether to approve the new site. “I would hope (they do,) but it’s up to them to decide,” he said. People who own property near the proposed site, which the county already has in a buy-sell agreement, have shown opposition to the new site, including circulating a petition last year to drum up support for their position. The land owners complained about several aspects of the new location, including trash blowing out of the new landfill, the possibility of toxins coming from the site and animals and pests that could congregate at the site. The draft EA found that, with the geology of the site and proper maintenance of the landfill, there would be few problems with issues like water contamination, blowing trash, tox i n s o r other issues. Monitoring of the site, including testing for methane and systems to prevent water contamination and to prevent animals and insects from getting into the trash, will be required, the EA says. Vincent said the main problem with the current site, located about nine miles east of Havre, is that the soil configuration could allow waste to contaminate water supplies. The land at the current site is mainly veins of sand and gravel that allow contaminants to escape, he said. The regulations put in place in 1993 or 1994 require that to expand at the current site, the new trash areas would have to be lined, which engineers have estimated, at current costs, would cost about $1 million for every five acres used. Vincent said that with the amount of trash coming from Hill, Blaine, and northern Chouteau counties, most of which comes from Havre, that would mean paying for a new liner every five to seven years. “You can’t keep going in that direction,” he said. Other expenses due to the geology of the site, including more testing for methane and water sampling also increase the costs of the current site, Vincent added. He said that the landfill’s board estimates the annual savings at the new site would be $150,000 to $200,000, which justifies the initial expense of developing the site. “There is some definite savings there,” Vincent said. He said the current site, developed in 1983, can be used without having to create a new disposal area with a liner for about a year-and-a-half to two years. If DEQ approves the licensing of the new site, the board would start putting out requests to develop the new landfill almost immediately to try to have the work done before the current site is filled, he said. That will involve moving a large amount of dirt, constructing the facilities including fencing at the new site, and possibly setting up recycling facilities in conjunction with Recycle Hi-Line. While the construction could increase the fees for trash disposal, that should be significant ly less than the cost increases that installing liners at the new site would create, Vincent said. He added that the disposal board has been setting aside funds for the creation of the new site for some time, starting once it became apparent the costs of continuing at the existing site would be prohibitive. “We’ve been planning for this for at least 10 years,” he said. Copies of the EA can be found at the DEQ Web site, or by requesting at copy from the Waste and Underground Tank Management Bureau, Solid Waste Program, P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620-0901. The public meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Havre High School auditorium. People can submit comments in writing or via e-mail at email@example.com through the close of the business day Aug. 19. People can call (406) 444- 5300 for information or assistance., and people with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations to participate in the public meeting can contact Lisa Peterson at the DEQ at (406) 444-2929. On the Net: DEQ Havre landfill environmental assessment: w w w. d e q . M t . G o v / e a / WasteManagement/Unified490- EA.pdf.