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Residential landfill fee to rise by 60 percent

Originally published: Jun. 24, 2013
Last modified: Jun. 24, 2013

Adam Orr

Tuesday afternoon, June 18, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $49 fee increase for all county households to offset rising costs as the Ashe County Landfill seeks a solution to its leachate lagoon issues.


The increase means county residents will pay $130 dollars in the coming year for household waste disposal collection, a 60 percent increase above the current $81 fee.


Since January, the landfill lagoon at the Ashe County Landfill has been filled close to capacity, which has forced costly draining and transporting, according to Ashe County Environmental Services Director Scott Hurley.


Leachate — the storm water that passes through exposed cells — system contains the runoff water and channels it into a large lagoon before recycling it back through the landfill. In essence, the lagoon makes the landfill a closed system that prevents harmful contaminants from seeping into groundwater.


Heavy rains and snow in the first half of the year, however, have turned the lagoon into an expensive problem.


“At this time, the leachate pond will not hold all of it,” Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell said. “We’ve purchased additional equipment this year, probably three or four months ago, so that our guys (could transport leachate for disposal). We have tried to build a berm there at the edge of the new cell where the garbage is to hold the water back, but that broke and now we’re trying to create two of those.”


“It seems like every time we get the leachate down in the cell, we get more rain,” Hurley said. “Over that large of an area, you’re talking anywhere between 50,000 and 70,000 gallons of water. You wouldn’t think an inch-and-a-half or two inches of rain is a lot of water, but it is when you take a large area that is coming into a bowl which is the landfill.”


Mitchell told commissioners that since their May budget work sessions began, the county had received three additional invoices for more than $41,000, with more expected for the month of June, and would need at least an $100,000 in the current budget year.


“We’re hauling anywhere from 40 to 60 loads a month,” Hurley said. “By the time you figure the transportation cost and the amount of disposal, it’s $1,100 a load.”


Additionally, Mitchell recommended adding at least $200,000 to the disposal side of the county’s environmental services budget in FY 2013/14.


“We could take money out of the fund balance,” Mitchell said. “Another way is to generate the fees to cover the expense.”


Mitchell told commissioners raising the fee to $130 per household would likely generate an additional $350,000 during the next year, enough to cover both leachate removal and the purchase of equipment.


After discussion during the afternoon, each of the county commissioners, with the exception of Commissioner Gerald Price, agreed to support the fee increase.


“I still think we’re penalizing people that don’t use it,” Price said. “I cannot see attaching that to somebody’s bill — that 80 or 85-year old lady and she’s going to have to pay this. Surely ... there is some kind of tipping fee we can add on to people that actually use it.”


Price ultimately voted for the increase.

 
For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.