County cleaning up closed landfill

ALAMOSA — Alamosa County Commissioners plan on completing the landfill's post closure care status with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment soon.

The discussion of the plan happened during the meeting's afternoon work session on Wednesday so no formal decision was made; however, the county is intent on settling the matter as quickly as possible. If not, they could see a five-figure fine from CDPHE.

Though the landfill was officially closed in the early 90s, the county has still been responsible for it and was sent a compliance advisory in 2013. CDPHE contends that there are containments in the soil, in addition to septage, that is preventing vegetation to regrow. They sent a letter originally stating that the county could cease post closure care when the vegetation was reestablished.

However, the commissioners and Alamosa County Land Use Administrator Rachel Baird say that the soil has also been bad and regrowth is unreasonable. Baird went to the site with soil scientists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to prove the soil's quality and CSU Extension Area Director Marvin Reynolds has told her the soil is natural.

"The pH of the soil is so high that the restoration rate is going to be slow no matter what," Baird said. "It could be decades...There's just no nutrients. There's only so much we can do and this is how nature repairs itself in that part of the county."

"That land has never been productive and never will be productive," added Alamosa County Commissioner Darius Allen. "That's why they put the landfill there to start with. If it was a prime piece of farmland they would have never put the landfill there."

CDPHE recently sent a revised letter that no longer asks for proof of healthy vegetation. Instead, it asks for two samples from a newly installed groundwater monitoring well.

"We've reached the point where this is probably the best plan we're going to get from them," said Alamosa County Attorney Jason Kelly. "I don't see them making any more concessions in terms of what we ask them to do."

The well is estimated to cost $15,000 and the two samples need to be taken three to six months apart. If the results come back normal then the county can cease post closure care within five years.

"We went this far and we don't want to quit now," said Alamosa County Commissioner Michael Yohn. "It is so frustrating. We need to look at the 2018 budget and will start putting money in there for the landfill."

The letter also asks for all tire shreds in the landfill that are larger than one inch to be removed by November 5 and taken to the regional landfill. The work has to be done manually to leave existing vegetation intact and it can't simply be covered by soil because CDPHE claims the tires warm up the soil to prevent regrowth. Baird estimates that there is roughly 40 acres of tire shreds.

Erosion repairs also need to be completed by June 30, 2018. Baird will meet with engineer Martin Reynolds to figure out if work on storm water control channels can be done this fall.

"From 2013 on there was never an endpoint," Baird said. "There's not a single document that shows they ever made any type of commitment in writing to giving us a post closure care. This sounds like bad news, but we've managed to get them to put agreements on paper that we can cease post closure care within a timely fashion."