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Landfill problems continue to plague residents
June 14, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Although Gering officials feel they are doing what they can to comply with state regulations regarding landfills, residents surrounding the facility are still experiencing problems.

“Dirt blowing out of the landfill is a big problem,” said Jon Ridgeway, who lives on Lariat Loop. “I’m one of the closest to the landfill on the north end so I don’t see it as much but I know there’s an issue when I can’t see my neighbor’s house. It happens even when the wind isn’t that strong.”

Ridgeway said the odor problem is also an issue when the wind is calm. However, blowing trash has been minimized with the building of catch fences surrounding the landfill.

Another problem in past years has been the infestation of flies in the neighborhood, often curtailing outdoor activities. But with improved daily cover methods, the fly problem has been kept to a minimum.

“The landfill has taken care of some things, just not everything,” Ridgeway said. “They’ve already dug out cell six, but they own the property to the west. We’re concerned they’ll just keep moving west with more cells.”

He said that although cell six is the last one licensed with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ), it will eventually need to be covered. That dirt will have to come from somewhere, creating another hole.

The city runs a water truck at the landfill several times a day to keep down the dust, but Ridgeway said there are many times when it isn’t running.

“The dirt’s always going to blow in western Nebraska,” he said. “But there are times when you can see the dirt boiling out of the landfill hole. If they’re stockpiling dirt for cover, they’re losing lots of cubic yards a day.”

Rick Hurt, Gering’s director of environmental services, said there’s no set schedule for watering. It’s based on how dry the local conditions are. The day after a recent rain, he had no plans to water at all.

“We keep records and the city puts down a minimum of 30,000 gallons of water on a dry day,” Hurt said. “Whether people see the truck or not, it’s still putting down water. Because of the time involved, we can only put down from 15 – 20 loads of water a day.”

Hurt said the watering schedule is the same, whether in summer or winter when the temperature is above freezing. “We water based on day-to-day conditions like moisture and wind. The sad thing is that some people are never going to be happy no matter what we do.”
Hurt added the city is working with the NDEQ to implement a dust control plan that allows the flexibility the landfill needs during changing weather conditions.

In January 2012, NDEQ issued a notice of violation over dust control at the Gering landfill. The notice read the city would have to submit a dust control plan before the violation could be resolved. The agency was looking for information on dust control on the haul roads at the landfill, dust control measures for daily cover and control measures for inactive disturbed areas.

The NDEQ letter said “The City of Gering will need to develop performance measures to determine the relative effectiveness of different dust control options, either alone or in combination with operational practices designed to limit dust.”

Bill Gidley, Waste Management Section Supervisor for NDEQ, said Gering is unique because of the area’s dry soil conditions. Most of the complaints his office receives from Gering residents are about the dust problem, but very few of them have generated citations.
“The Gering landfill isn’t like any of the others in the state,” Gidley said. “The soil in the area is extremely dry, so it scatters easily when the wind’s blowing.”

Numbers provided from the NDEQ database reveal that complaints about the Gering landfill started around 2010, when there were two complaints filed. From 2011 to today, a total of 39 complaints have been filed.

Gidley said some of these complaints have generated letters of warning and notices of violation. However, NDEQ continues to work with Gering to remedy the problems and assure compliance with state regulations.

NDEQ representatives will be in Gering July 12 to meet with city officials and tour the landfill. They plan to discuss the city’s submitted plan for dust control and what measures can help implement the plan.

A larger and more obvious question many Gering residents are asking is why anyone would build or buy a house next to a landfill in the first place.

Dave Nagel, who has lived on Silver Spur Court since 1999, was frank with his answer. “Right away, I was lied to by the city,” he said. “I told Wally Baird, the city administrator, that I was considering buying a house and asked him how long the dump was going to be there. He told me it would be closed in three to five years.”

Nagel said he had concerns the landfill would be stacked 30 to 50 feet above grade, like Scottsbluff’s landfill had been before it closed, and he was assured the landfill would never go above the natural grade of the area. He complained that by city ordinance, there’s a 15 foot height restriction on houses surrounding the Monument area; however, the landfill can stack trash as high as they want.

Dust, or actually dirt and sand, is a major problem for Nagel. He said it’s not so much a problem when the wind comes out of the south but when it comes from the north and northwest, he can’t see the canyon behind his house, which is about 100 feet away.

“The dust is a problem because the city doesn’t water soon enough,” he said, “and they don’t water long enough or put enough water on in the first place.”

Nagel said he was also concerned about potential hazardous materials and construction waste containing potential toxic mold finding its way into the landfill. The prevailing winds would spread any possible contaminants into the city.

When asked the remedy to the problem, Nagle’s reply was short: “Move the dump.”

Former Gering mayor Bob Unzicker, who built his house just off Five Rocks Road in 2001, agreed that dust from the landfill is a problem since he moved in.

“When I was mayor, we were working with Scottsbluff to have the landfill removed to another location in the county,” he said. “There was a reserve fund set up for that purpose, but I’m not sure how much money is in it.”

Unzicker, whose last year of office was 1994, said he wouldn’t have built in his present location if he knew the city wouldn’t follow through on its intention to relocate the landfill. “I was anticipating the landfill wouldn’t be there when we built. But 11 years later, it’s still here and I don’t see any real movement to get it relocated like the city had originally intended.”
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