County solid waste officials help modify landfill law

Apr 29, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The changes would ensure funding to speed up the closure of older sites.

Local officials and legislators have helped develop two laws seeking to solve solid waste issues in the state. The bills were passed during the legislature's budget session this year.

The first bill rectifies a problem the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District identified in a 2013 bill.

In recent years, state government has worked to close old landfills that could contaminate groundwater and build new, safer ones, said state Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander. The new dumps either have to have an "engineered containment system," which is a lining, or conform to a "performance base standard," meaning it is built on impermeable bedrock, he said.

In 2013, the legislature set aside funds to help municipalities and counties close old landfills and construct transfer stations to bring waste to new, safer landfills, but there were strings attached.

"If you take (waste to) an unlined landfill, you would not qualify for the funds the state has provided to create the cease and transfer stations (program)," Larsen said.

In Fremont County, officials had begun to close a dump by Dubois and wanted to haul the trash to the Riverton landfill, but the Riverton facility did not conform to the new standards, though it is a legal and permitted landfill.

If the county wanted to receive grant funds to close the local landfills, it would have to haul waste to Casper, Larsen said.

"Our (Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District) folks were saying, 'Why not allow us to do what we're doing and still qualify for funds?" Larsen said. "It will accelerate the speed at which we close (landfills at) Riverton or perhaps Lander."

The FCSWDD officials helped draft legislation to solve the problem, and the Legislature's joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee -- including Larsen and state Rep. Nathan Winters, R-Thermopolis -- sponsored it.

The new bill provides an exemption to provide the grant to entities even if they bring trash to old landfills if it speeds up closing those dumps but does not expand them.

A second bill ranks 52 landfill-closing projects and establishes priorities for dispersing the funds set aside in 2013. The funds are to pay up to 75 percent of the cost of shutting down a dump.

Creating a transfer station at Dubois is ranked 11th and closing the town's landfill is ranked 13th, and together the projects are to receive about $1.3 million.

Closing the Shoshoni landfill is ranked 43rd and has been allocated $1.6 million. Closing the Lander dump is ranked 48th and creating a transfer station for the county seat is ranked 50th. A total of $6.2 million is set aside for the Lander projects.

Funding for other sites is likely. Larsen expects the Legislature to allocate more money in the future for closing landfills and more sites to be added to the priorities list.

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