Curbside recycling could return to Huntington to help extend landfill life

Curbside recycling, gone from Huntington for nearly a decade, could return as city officials look for ways to extend the life of the Huntington Landfill.

Members of the Huntington Common Council learned the cost of a recycling program during a busy meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, that also included laying the groundwork for funding a partial closure of the landfill, establishing a committee to consider regulating smoking in city parks and hearing details of an EPA cleanup at the long-idled Friction Materials/H.K. Porter site.

The presentation by Andy Maguire, an EPA on-site coordinator, brought many neighbors of the dilapidated Sabine Street plant to the council meeting. Maguire told the neighbors and council members that the team from the Chicago-based EPA Emergency Response Branch is assessing the hazards at the site and removing anything that poses an immediate hazard.

In a best-case scenario — and that's “becoming increasingly not reality,” Maguire said — the team could complete the project in September. Wrangling in Washington, DC, over the federal budget could delay funding for the EPA, he said, in which case the project would be shut down in October and completed in the spring.

“We have enough money to take care of pretty much everything else but the asbestos,” Maguire said.

The biggest contaminants at the site, he said are benzine, lead and asbestos. The site was home to manufacturing facilities for nearly 100 years, many using asbestos.

The EPA team is also testing soil and groundwater outside the 12-acre site and will keep testing farther outside the site until it reaches a point where it is not finding any contaminants, he said.

The site is now owned by the Huntington Redevelopment Commission, said Bryn Keplinger, director of community development and redevelopment for the city. The city will take over where the EPA leaves off, he said.

“They're eliminating the worst of the worst threats,” Keplinger said. The city will still have to take some abatement measures before eventually demolishing the building, he said.

Future development of the site will depend on what kind of contaminants are found, Mayor Brooks Fetters said. Any redevelopment is far into the future, he added.

The council will turn its attention next month to the possible return of curbside recycling, considering an ordinance that would make participation mandatory for all city residents.

The city's Board of Public Works and Safety requested bids from companies interested in providing pickups of recycling, and received a response from only one company — Republic Services. The company would pick up recycling from every residence in the city every two weeks. Each residence would be charged a fee of approximately $4.85 a month for the first year, with that fee increasing to about $5.45 a month in the final year of the five-year contract. Each residence would receive a 95-gallon cart — about the same size as the trash cans currently being used — to hold recyclables.

For every five years of curbside recycling, the life of the landfill would be extended by about nine months, said Anthony Goodnight, the city's director of public works and engineering services. Without recycling, he said, the landfill is expected to be full in three to five years.

Requiring recycling in other communities that bring their trash to the Huntington Landfill could also extend the life of the landfill, he said.

“Anybody who uses the landfill needs to be doing the same thing city residents do,” Mayor Brooks Fetters said.

Part of the landfill is already full, and the council is making plans for the permanent closure of that area. Council members approved an ordinance authorizing the issuance of $2.5 million in bonds, to be repaid over 20 years, to fund the closure of those 26 acres. Council members also approved an additional appropriation that allows the expenditure of the bond proceeds on the landfill closure.

A ban on smoking in city parks, which was suggested in June by Huntington resident Anthony Lisinicchia, will be studied by a committee consisting of council members Seth Marshall, Erin Covey and Paul Pike, along with Lisinicchia, Goodnight and Bob Caley, city services superintendent. The committee will report back to the full council.

Huntington Fire Chief Tim Albertson reported that the department's ISO rating has improved from a 4 to a 3, a change that could result in small savings on fire insurance premiums for Huntington residents but major savings to businesses and industries.

The Insurance Services Office evaluates emergency communication, water supply and firefighting abilities to award the ratings, Albertson said, and all three areas in Huntington have improved. Ratings range from 1 (best) to 10 (worst), Albertson explained, noting that fewer than five percent of Indiana fire departments have achieved ratings of 3 or better.

The new ratings take effect Nov. 1, and Albertson said property owners should mention the improvement in the city's ISO when renewing their fire insurance.

Also during the meeting, the council heard from Shyloe Knipp, a second-grader at Flint Springs Elementary School, who advocated keeping trash picked up and implementing recycling. She also discussed the dangers of smoking.