Hgtn. Common Council wrestles with upcoming landfill problems

Two sections of the Huntington Landfill are full and overdue for final closure.

The remainder of usable space at the landfill is filling rapidly, and the proximity of wells that provide water to the City of Huntington precludes any expansion.

The Huntington Common Council wrestled with those problems during its meeting on Tuesday, June 27, ultimately laying the groundwork for a bond issue to fund the permanent closing of those two sections of the landfill.

Council also started looking at a mandatory recycling program that could affect even those who don’t live in the city.

Closing the two sections of the landfill — a total of 26 acres that have been full and ready for closure for many years — is expected to cost in excess of $6 million.

Heidi Amspaugh, of the consulting firm Umbaugh, said the project could be financed through a combination of bonds and cash.

She proposed two separate bond issues — $2.5 million by the city and $2.7 million by the Huntington Redevelopment Commission, bringing each of those entities near the limits on debt set by the state.
The bonds would be paid off over 20 years through a property tax increase for city residents.

In addition to the bonds, the city would contribute abut $1.3 million in cash toward the landfill closure project.

Amspaugh said that, should council and the redevelopment commission give final approval to the bond issues, the closure of the two full sections of the landfill could begin before the end of the year.
Closing those two sections won’t end the city’s landfill problems.

The two remaining sections that will continue to be used could be full in three to six years, said Anthony Goodnight, director of public works and engineering services.

The city owns about 220 acres at the landfill site but can’t expand beyond the 56 acres already in use because of the proximity of five wells that supply water to the city of Huntington.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, in regulations put in place after both the landfill and the wells were in and operating, requires that wells be located far enough from a landfill that water leaching from the landfill won’t reach the wells for more than five years.

Re-drilling the city’s wells would cost around $500,000 each, Goodnight said, in addition to other costs including locating a new water source and moving water lines.

That would be, Goodnight said, “a very large- scale well relocation.”

Part of the solution, Goodnight said, could be the institution of mandatory curbside recycling for city residents.

The city would contract with a recycling company to provide the service, Goodnight said. Residents would be provided with a bin, which could be filled with all types of recyclables, and charged a monthly fee of an estimated $3 to $5.

Commercial businesses could opt in, Goodnight said, but only if their recyclables would fit into the same bin as used by residential customers.

“A lot of our factories in town are zero landfill facilities,” Mayor Brooks Fetters noted, meaning that they recycle nearly all of their waste.

In addition to the mandatory recycling program for city residents, all commercial trash haulers that use the Huntington landfill would be required to institute a recycling program in the cities they serve.

Goodnight said an estimated 35 percent of the trash now going into the landfill is recyclable.

“If we fully implement recycling, it will add a year to the landfill life,” Council Member Charles Chapman said.

Council Member Erin Covey said getting residents used to recycling could prepare them for the eventuality that the entire landfill will be closed and the city will have to pay to have its trash hauled away.

The city would pay per ton, she said, and any reduction in the tonnage destined for a landfill would result in a reduction in cost for the service.

Goodnight said that figures from 2016 show that 45 percent of the landfill’s trash comes from City of Huntington residents, 51 percent from elsewhere in Huntington County and 4 percent from out-of-county trash haulers. The landfill no longer accepts out-of-county trash.

Most of the landfill’s operating funds — 59 percent — come from city sources including property taxes, Goodnight said, with 35 percent coming from the county and the rest from miscellaneous sources.

“It’s lopsided,” he said.

Tom Wall, president of the Huntington County Commissioners, suggested that the county might be willing to increase the annual $50,000 payment it makes to subsidize county residents who use the city landfill.

“I think we need to have a landfill in Huntington County,” Wall said. “That is such an asset out there, I’d like to see what we could do to keep it.”

Also Tuesday, the council approved an additional appropriation of $253,000 that City Services Superintendent Bob Caley said would be used “to work on keeping the landfill going and compliant.”
The money will be spent on a new semi to haul contaminated water from the landfill to the wastewater treatment plant, pumps to draw the water out of the landfill, a tractor to mow the landfill and other items.

The landfill must be maintained at least 30 years after closure, Caley noted.

“We’re learning, as time goes on, the true cost of operating a landfill,” Fetters said.

In other business:

• Fetters presented council members with policies from nearby communities regarding tobacco use in public parks. Policies range from bans on all tobacco to bans on just smoking. Some communities have no policy on tobacco use in parks, he said.

The council received a request earlier this month from a man who wants to see smoking banned in all city parks.

This article has been edited to reflect revised figures on both the number of city wells and the cost to re-drill each well.