County Manager Dan McMillan said last week that the county has submitted an application to request bids on the next cell and he expects to hear from the state and hopefully go to bids within the next several weeks.
McMillan said he doesn’t have a cost estimate yet on the new cell, which would be the fourth for the county landfill, but he expects it will be at or below the cost of preparing the third cell, the one on hold right now because of contamination from older parts of the landfill. Cost for the fourth cell is estimated at $3 million plus, and would be paid through an installment purchase or revenue bond.
Because of delays from contamination testing of the third cell, resulting in trash having to be hauled outside the county, the commissioners decided to bypass the third and go on to the fourth and fifth locations, which are two long narrow strips of about eight acres. They will be combined in development, and hopefully by the time they are filled the third cell would have been cleaned up and ready for use. The fourth and fifth cells are expected to provide dumping space for 12 to 15 years, and the third cell for about 18 years, said McMillan.
These “cells” are sections of the county landfill in Crumpler that are individually developed for disposal of solid waste. The process includes digging the hole, preparing several layers of material for protection, then lining the hole with a leak-proof rubber material and several more layers of protective material before garbage can be dumped in the site. The county must meet state and federal regulations on landfill operations, such as use of a rubber lining for each cell and water monitoring wells. The county operates a Class A landfill meaning leachate, or the runoff that accumulates from rain on the cell, can be re-circulated over the trash instead of costly collection and disposal at a federally approved facility.
The cost of hauling trash to Caldwell County is being covered by money set aside for debt service on the third landfill cell, raised through the $75 per household annual fee for garbage disposal service. It is actually costing less, McMillan said, to currently transport this amount of garbage outside the county than to pay the debt service. But the money will go to pay for the new cell once the project is completed. And it costs less in the long run, he said, for Ashe to operate its own landfill rather than transport trash to another area.
“We have land so why not use it?” McMillan said. “It makes more sense to use our own space. A study was done that showed it costs less to operate our own landfill.” And Ashe would not accept trash from other counties, he said, because it would shorten the life of the county landfill and it is the commissioners’ desire to lengthen the life of the landfill as long as possible.
The delay in completing the third cell is caused by a small area of soil contaminated by leachate from the old, unlined landfill. The third cell is the largest of the five planned cells at the county landfill. McMillan said it is clearing up and should be ready for use within the next year or two. Once the county fills these three cells, a lateral expansion of the 187-acre landfill will be needed.