Hoping to extend the Laramie landfill’s life while simultaneously cutting costs to the city and residents, the city is making some changes to its landfill permit.
An expansion of the unlined area, called Stage One, is one of the bigger changes coming to the landfill. Interim Public Works director Brooks Webb said Stage One is for construction debris — like rocks, trees and concrete — that won’t leech harmful contaminants into the groundwater if placed in an unlined part of the landfill. With the expansion, Webb said he expects Stage One to have 10 more years of space.
“We took into account the [University of Wyoming] dorms coming down,” Webb said. “We’re not sure how much of that we’re going to get from them, how much they’re going to recycle on site. We’ll be working with them on that.”
Without the expansion, construction debris would take up valuable lined-landfill space. Since the lined parts of the landfill are the most expensive to create, Webb said saving space there helps save the city and residents money, too.
Another permit change is also expected to cut costs, albeit in the long-term considering it concerns the landfill’s eventual closure. Webb explained cities can either use a soil or plastic cap to cover a landfill once it’s retired to help keep rainwater from going through and contaminating subsurface water. The city is moving away from a plastic cover, Webb said, because it’s such an expensive process that cities typically only use when they don’t have the proper soils in place for a soil cap instead.
“We had our soils at the site analyzed — we have tons of soil — and it meets all the requirements to do a soil cap,” Webb said. “It’s engineered to where, depending on your rain water and your snow melt and everything, there’s enough soil and vegetation to take that precipitation so that it never gets to the trash.”
The soil cap, Webb said, will cut the landfill’s closing costs “in half,” further saving money for the residents and the city. It even saves the city money in maintenance costs.
“It’s just much easier to maintain a soil-covered site than it is plastic,” Webb said. “Soil, if you have erosion or something, you come in with a machine and you track it out and make it nice again. With plastic, it’s a pain.”
Although the changes are major cost-savers, they aren’t ones the public will necessarily even see. For example, the landfill’s expected closure is still about 45 years away.
Outside of the permit changes, there are some more noticeable and immediate developments occurring at the landfill this year. Webb said the city hopes to start bidding for the landfill expansion project in the next few weeks, clearing the way for three new 15-acre cells to relieve the current one that’s almost full.
“There’s going to be a lot of equipment, a lot of stuff happening out there,” Webb said. “We’re actually moving over 700,000 cubic yards of dirt; it’s going to be a big hole in the ground.”