Landfill to last another 150 years

Landfill to last another 150 years

Landfill to last another 150 years

Recycling and other waste reduction projects have helped to extend the life of the Pershing County Landfill by almost 150 years according to Manager Mitch Nielsen. He credits increased public participation for the reduction that also keeps garbage disposal fees relatively low.

A modification by the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection has expanded the space for future trash, resulting in the longer life span. If the county grows, however, a new dump might be needed and it will be expensive, so Nielsen is doing his best to “mine” the recyclables.

“Right now, with our modification that was approved, based on the numbers we have at this time, we are allowed to be open until 2171,” Nielsen said. “We gained a little more than 150 years of life. But, a caveat to that is that we continue the current practices. We do have a lot of waste elimination. The brush and the metal coming out of the trash is a huge space-saving.”

Landfill Education

There’s always room for improvement, however. A recent landfill fire that required the fire department’s attention was a reminder that flammable materials do not belong at the dump.

Public education is a constant challenge for Nielsen and his staff of one. They must follow environmental protocol by not contaminating the air, water, soil and surrounding land.

The challenges include loose trash that gets blown around by the wind and the waste oil, paint, fuel and other flammables smuggled in by the public. There are big, hard-to-miss piles designated for metal, plastic, brush, tires and furniture to be separated as requested at the gate.

Nielsen asks the public to bag their household trash and notify him if they have flammable waste so it can be disposed of properly. He requests that residents not dump trash on windy days. The county could be fined if trash blows from the dump into the surrounding desert.

“This morning, we had a gentleman come in that was upset that he had to have his trash bagged,” Nielsen said. “He still threw it out of his trailer unbagged and let it blow all over the landfill. We have these rules for a reason. We can be fined.”

Enforcement of dump rules is going to be stepped up according to Nielsen. He and his assistant do not have time to “chase the entire county’s trash all over the landfill” and separate it, he said.

“We have a separation fee at the landfill that we started three years ago and we are going to start enforcing it,” he said. “If they don’t want to separate their waste and we are forced to do it, then we are going to bill them. We have a sign posted at the gate that shows our fees.”

Last week, Nielsen and his helper loaded up scrap metal destined for a Reno recycling yard. Scrap prices have increased to $60 a ton for tin and $130 a ton for heavy iron, he said.

“When I started here six years ago, scrap was $200 a ton for tin. Earlier this year, it was $15. Having processors in Nevada would be extremely beneficial,” he said. “Even if they were taking plastics for free, the savings in volume is more valuable than what I’d make on the recyclables.”

Heavy plastic is still being stockpiled at the dump, though there’s no nearby market for it right now in the state. A Nevada company that was collecting the material closed its doors last year.

Tires must be separated and buried to avoid a dreaded tire fire but a few serve as temporary trash barriers. Nielsen is still waiting for a tire shredding plant to open somewhere in the state.

Trash War

More than 60 miles away, the transfer station in Grass Valley is a constant headache for Nielsen. Trash bins at the unmanned facility frequently overflow with demolition waste, trees and brush, old trailers and car parts. Grass Valley residents complain that nearby Humboldt County residents cross the county line to dump their trash for free in Pershing County.

Warning signs don’t stop the trespassers and security cameras have been shot or stolen, Nielsen said. Supervision is needed at the transfer site but that means more cost for the county. 

“What Grass Valley needs is control,” Nielsen said. “If there were a staff member up there, I would not have an issue with putting bins in for specific things like brush and metal. That frees up room in the household bins but someone has to be there — otherwise it will be abused.”

In the long run, “eyes on site” would save money by cutting the waste from outside the county.

“The ones that aren’t supposed to dump there won’t be dumping there anymore,” Nielsen said.