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Health department grapples with increasing stream of waste

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | July 16, 2021 7:00 AM

Lincoln County Health Department officials want to bolster local dumpsites, citing a jump in population size, demolition projects and waste.

The county saw a 30 percent increase in the incoming volume of refuse at the Libby Landfill last year. To keep pace with the rising demand, the department may need to bring on more employees and offer additional training to current workers, officials cautioned.

A project report from the department notes that, with adequate staffing, the department could save money by relying on county employees for projects rather than contractors.

To address growing waste load, the department is in the planning stage of a six-acre expansion on the western edge of the current landfill cell. The engineered cell will feature a bottom liner, landfill gas collection and treatment, leachate storage and treatment and a final cover.

The department has budgeted $125,000 in the upcoming fiscal year to design the expansion. If local officials receive approval from the state Department of Environmental Quality, the money will also underwrite geotechnical analysis, drilling and construction plans.

The department’s capital improvement plan — approved by county commissioners on June 23 — lists the purchase of a roughly $65,000 skid steer for the Libby Landfill’s Class IV asbestos cell among their top needs.

After local officials took over management of the asbestos cell in 2020, the county saw a spike in mitigation projects. Officials expect upcoming work at the Asa Wood Elementary School building, Troy Mine and Pipe Creek Road to add material to the cell.

While operators at Libby Landfill generally chip and compost wood waste, officials say a spike in woody scrap material in recent years has proven troublesome.

In Eureka, Troy and Happy’s Inn, operators can simply burn off wood waste. Owing to burn limitations set by the Libby Air Quality Control District, the health department would need an air curtain incinerator. This piece of equipment would let public employees dispose of the wood without affecting local air quality.

Officials estimate the air curtain incinerator, coupled with training and delivery costs, will set the county back about $135,000.

To accommodate a population increase in the southeastern corner of the county, health officials are looking to bulk up the dumpsite near Happy’s Inn with fencing, security and a gatekeeper. The department also plans to consolidate the green box site at McGinnis Meadows with the Happy’s Inn location at a cost of $25,000.

Officials also are seeking additional 40-yard roll-off containers to accommodate rising waste volumes. The department has budgeted for two waste bins — which run at $16,000 each — and included two more in their budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

In the coming years, the department expects to replace a compactor and a loader using capital improvement funds. Officials are looking to install cameras to cut down on repeated vandalism at green box sites.