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The Future of Solid Waste Management in Larimer County

In February of 2006, the Larimer County Solid Waste Department purchased land near Wellington for possible use as a future solid waste management site. While the current landfill still has an estimated 15 years of life to it (as of January, 2013), the county wanted to ensure that it would be able to meet the needs of its citizens in the future; hence, the land purchase. Until needed by the Solid Waste Department, the property will be managed by the Larimer County Parks and Open Lands Department. In addition, the current landfill will be required to be monitored for 30 years after it is closed.

Location of property Location of the property View of property Photo 1 of the property
(facing north, with the Rawhide Power Plant in the background)
Aerial view of property Aerial map View of property Photo 2 of the property

What are our options?

A lot can happen in 15 years, and just because we have a landfill today doesn't mean we'll have a landfill tomorrow. Perhaps by then better technologies will have been developed for managing trash. Or perhaps Larimer County will decide on other waste management options that are available even now. Below, we present a variety of potential uses for the new property. As of now, however, a decision about the future use of this land is a long way away.

Click on the pictures below for bigger images.

Other Uses

It's possible that the property will end up NOT being used for solid waste management activities. As the needs of county government and residents change, our options for using this property remain open. As just one example, it could be used as a shooting range instead.

Sanitary Landfill
Landfill Landfill A sanitary landfill is operated in accordance with government regulations, which include covering the trash with a layer of dirt or other material at the end of every day, and monitoring air emissions and groundwater. Our current landfill in south Fort Collins is considered a sanitary landfill; however, because it opened in 1963 before these regulations were in place, some environmental safety features are not included. In addition to the features listed above, a new landfill would also include a liner underneath and a leachate collection system.
Bales of trash Bales of trash Bales heading to balefill A balefill is a landfill specifically designed to handle bales of trash (instead of loose trash). Trash is compacted either on- or off-site into bales weighing about 50 pounds per square foot. The bales are contained with heavy duty baling wire.
Bioreactor Bioreactor diagram A bioreactor landfill rapidly transforms and degrades organic waste. The increase in waste degradation and stabilization is accomplished with the addition of liquid and air to enhance microbial processes.
Transfer Station
Transfer station A transfer station is a temporary holding place for trash. Trash is collected here and then transferred to a landfill or other facility elsewhere. Recyclables and compostable materials may also be sorted at a transfer station to divert waste from landfills.
Landfill Gas Generator
Gas Generator Generator Electrical generator equipment Landfill gas generators burn landfill gases and feed large quantities of electric power into the local electricity grid for use by the community. Doing so reduces the use of fossil fuels and is more environmentally friendly than just flaring the gas. The pictures show the electrical generation equipment at such a facility. Here, the engines burn only landfill gas for fuel and operate 24 hours a day. Each engine produces 750 kw of electricity.
Leachate Treatment Plant
Leachate treatment plant Leachate is groundwater contaminated by trash. A leachate treatment plant ensures that no leachate is emitted to pollute local streams or groundwater. The picture shows a facility that has been carefully sited beside a quarry wall, and it will be almost completely hidden from view once this landfill is closed. The leachate treatment plant will remain in operation many years after closure of the landfill.
Waste to Energy Facility (Incinerator)
Incineration facility Furnace Ash still must be landfilled The phrase "Waste to Energy" is used interchangeably with the term "Resource Recovery." It is the process whereby garbage is used as the fuel to heat tubes of water in a boiler. The high temperatures produced by the burning garbage turn the water into steam, which is then used to drive a turbine generator that produces electricity. Waste to Energy is viewed as more beneficial than burying raw garbage because a usable product (energy) results. While the resulting ash must still be landfilled, the solid waste is reduced in volume by 90%. This saves valuable landfill space and uses a renewable source of energy to serve about 20,000 homes, depending on the size of the facility.
Composting Facility
Composting facility At a composting facility, yard and garden trimmings, including grass, leaves and plant debris, enter a grinder and exit via a conveyor. The material is then placed into long piles called "windrows," then moved to a curing pile for about nine months to stabilize. Composting diverts organic wastes from landfills, conserving landfill space and providing a use for otherwise disposable materials.
Biodigester A biodigester is a machine used for the production of biogas, a mixture of gases created by methanogenic bacteria digesting organic matter in anaerobic conditions. Biodigesters are used to process animal and certain plant agricultural waste. They can also be used as a sanitation system for the processing of human waste.
Ethanol Facility
Commercial Scale Big Gasifier facility Diagram of gasifier Ethanol production consumes large volumes of waste material and recovers valuable energy and fuels, while leaving a comparatively small amount of benign material behind. A natural synergy exists among technology, public agencies and private companies tasked with handling enormous volumes of society's waste products.
Shooting Range
Shooting range Shooting range What does a shooting range have to do with disposing of garbage? Nothing. But if Larimer County were to get out of the waste disposal business, leaving private companies to provide that service, then a shooting range is a possible use for this property. The Larimer County Parks and Open Lands Department previously operated a shooting range on the current landfill property, but that closed in 2001.

To reiterate, this property will not be used for solid waste management operations for at least another 15 years or so.The development of the site for any type of waste facility will be preceded by extensive public involvment, committees studying options, detailed planning, and public hearings.