February 2, 2015
Wyoming counties struggling to mitigate land contamination are getting help from the state, which has earmarked more than $65 million to help local governments mitigate leaks and construct new transfer stations.
One county in the running to receive funds is Teton County, whose Horsethief Canyon facility is facing $8.3 million in improvements. The landfill was closed in the 1980s, and waste is now taken to Idaho.
Teton County Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling Division Chief Heather Overholser says the county can apply for up to 75 percent of the total project cost.
“Communities don’t have the money to close and mitigate land contamination,” she says. The state "is trying to get communities to utilize more high-tech landfills throughout the state and close smaller landfills and build transfer stations.”
Overholser says while Teton County isn’t eligible for the state funds yet, it may be in the next legislation session. Plans at Horsethief Canyon include closing the existing landfill and renovating the site to house a new transfer station and move waste out of the county. The renovations at the existing site would include excavating five acres of old waste to fit the new transfer station.
Craig McOmie, program manager for Wyoming’s Remediation and Cease and Transfer Programs says the state funding comes from two programs initially created in 2006. Originally, landfills in Wyoming weren’t believed to pose a groundwater threat because of very little rain and resulting leachate. But when wells were installed on the state’s dime and monitoring results were returned in 2010, it became clear that was not the case.
Monitoring information was received from 76 of the 114 landfills where wells were placed, and McOmie says contaminant release was detected at 73 of those landfills. Not all required remediation action, but 96 percent showed some sort of release. Although some of the release could be from naturally occurring contaminants such as nitrates or arsenic, McOmrie says 80 percent of the landfills where release was detected had “significant impact.”
As a result of the monitoring, $45 million was set aside by the state for remediation programs. A portion of the funds are coming from underground storage tank fees collected by the state, he says. Another $20.5 million was reserved for cease and transfer programs, with $15 million of that available in grants and another $5.5 million in zero interest loans.
McOmrie says nearly $6.4 million has already been spent on building new transfer stations and there is a bill under consideration by state lawmakers now to replenish those funds that have already been used.
“I’m anticipating that each year they will look (at what was used) and replenish,” McOmrie says.
In 2013, two new similar programs were introduced by state lawmakers to help communities deal with the continued cost of dealing with landfills, he adds. One of the programs offers to cover 75 percent of landfill mitigation costs for 10 years. The other program offers additional aid for new transfer facilities.
McOmrie says he isn’t aware of similar programs in other states, and if there are, he can’t imagine those states are contributing so much to remediation efforts.
Although Teton County is looking at participating in the program, McOmrie says there are 11 other landfills that have been identified as high priority projects. The top project, in Campbell County, would cost about $4.3 million. McOmrie says that landfill is situated in the center of a former small town that has grown immensely. At the third highest priority site in Casper County, McOmrie says the landfill sits just above the North Platte River, and leachate is leaking into the river. The estimated total project cost for remediation in Casper is nearly $3.9 million.