About 200 Gering residents have signed onto a petition asking the city council to reject expanding the landfill beyond it current capacity.
Al Herbel, who lives south of the landfill, presented the petition to council members. He said the drive was initiated after a June 16 story in the Gering Citizen that the city would conduct a feasibility study on whether to expand the landfill.
The proposed new landfill area would only be for construction and demolition materials. Because those materials are currently going into the municipal solid waste landfill, it is filling up more rapidly than expected. Cell five of the landfill is almost full and only one cell remains. With no changes, the expected life of the landfill would run out in 2024.
“This proposal concerns many of us,” Herbel told the council. “The landfill impacts property values and our quality of life. We’re asking you to cease operations when the current license ends with the development of cell six.”
In effect, the petition asks the city to deny any extension of the landfill for additional waste use, either construction and demolition wastes or any other wastes beyond the current license allowance.
Council member Larry Gibbs asked Herbel whether the group had considered the economic impact of closing the landfill earlier than its expected lifespan. Those expenses would include finding a new landfill site and fuel costs to transport municipal waste to that site. The city is currently setting aside funds for future landfill development.
“Only considering the economic impact is ethically wrong,” Herbel said. “If you can’t afford to do the right thing, why do you insist on taking advantage of a few citizens and our quality of life? All of west Gering has been affected by the landfill’s operation.”
Gering Mayor Ed Mayo also pointed out the petition made no mention of the costs involved in closing the landfill early without even considering other options.
Herbel said one of those options would be to ship municipal waste to Guernsey, Wyo. and its waste to energy plant.
Gibbs said the city was considering that option. However, the plant was now charging a tipping fee to accept any waste. And with the cost of fuel to transport the waste, that option wasn’t economically feasible.
Rick Hurt, Gering’s director of environmental services, said a feasibility study will help determine the best course of action for the city to take regarding the landfill. Cost to the taxpayer would be a major consideration.
“It’s wrong to make any decision strictly on finances,” Herbel said. “We have more at stake and the community is going to suffer if you make a decision based on economics alone.”
Hurt explained the construction and demolition waste landfill was proposed because the city would run short of cover dirt for the existing solid waste landfill. “If I borrow the dirt from next to the landfill, would you prefer to have a big hole there after we’re done?”
He said a feasibility study would determine how much cover dirt they would be short to cover over the landfill. And if any modifications to the existing landfill permit were pursued in the future, all Department of Environment Quality regulations would apply. That would include scheduling public hearings to receive comment on the proposed changes.
“We have to keep our options open,” Hurt said. “We need to save taxpayer money wherever we can while operating in an environmentally acceptable manner.”
The council agreed to keep the opposition petition on file while the feasibility study continues.
“I can understand both points of view,” said council member Jill McFarland. “But at this point, this discussion is premature. Until we get the results of this study, we won’t know what the answers are.”