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Landfill continues to address dust issue
May 25, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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The Gering landfill has received a notice of violation from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) over excessive dust during the months of November and December 2011.

“We haven’t been fined or cited with anything,” said Rick Hurt, Gering’s director of environmental services. “We continue to expend a lot of resources to keep the dust to a minimum. We put up speed limits around the landfill and spray between 15 and 20 truckloads of water on the surface every day. We have one full-time person whose job is to keep water on the landfill.”

Hurt added he’s also received complaints about not watering in the winter. But with freezing temperatures, that’s impossible. The law states “the entity will use all measures reasonable and practical” to address the dust problem.

Hurt said that wind is an ever-present challenge for the landfill, as it’s surrounded by farm ground. One of the days mentioned in the NDEQ violation was when the wind was strong enough to flip over a semi truck on Five Rocks Road. On the other day cited, the area had consistent winds of 40 mph and gusts to 60 mph as measured at the landfill’s weather station.

Hurt said several area residents complain to the NDEQ on a regular basis about the dust problem, which some have told him is entirely caused by the landfill.

“I’m not saying the landfill doesn’t have escaping dust, but that happens with high winds,” Hurt said. “If you look out over the valley and can’s see your neighbor’s house or can’t see Scottsbluff because of the dust, why is it all the landfill’s fault?”

Hurt said there is always dust from the landfill as they are currently digging cell six, which must be completed in the next six months.

“We’ve hired an engineering firm to develop a dust control plan,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of money that no other landfill in the state has ever done.”

Other measures are also being done to reduce any problem of flying dust or debris. Since Hurt arrived on the job last year, landfill staff began spraying the vertical face of the garbage bales with alternative daily cover, which is a sprayed on poly shell. That cover is done on a daily basis. On weekends, concrete is added to the mix to keep garbage in place in the event of rain.

Also, once the wind speeds up to over 25 mph, the landfill is closed for incoming trash.

“We use our weather station to monitor the weather all the time,” Hurt said. “Since April, we’ve already closed down six times.”
Hurt said it’s a big problem when numerous complaints, sometimes completely without merit, costs the city money to respond to the charges.

“I think we’re the most regulated landfill in the state,” he said. “We’ve invited NDEQ to our site to help us come up with a plan they’re happy with.”

Landfill staff is also addressing other environmental issues, such as laying down a liner in the cell most subject to water seepage.
“It is frustrating when we’re probably doing more now than we’ve ever done in the past, but the number of complaints keep growing,” Hurt said. “But when people live that close to the landfill, there will be problems.”
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