Inching closer to a solid waste solution

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Socorro’s application to the New Mexico Environment Department for a permit to create a 116-acre landfill next to the existing facility will be one step closer to approval this week. The NMED will hold a public hearing on the matter at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, in the city council chambers at Socorro City Hall.

Socorro’s landfill consultant, Marvin Magee, hopes everyone with an interest in the matter, from private citizens to government officials, will attend at least the public comment portion of the hearing, which is scheduled to take place from 3:30 to 4 p.m.

“It’s important that the citizens voice their opinions,” Magee said.

The city, as proponents of the permit, will be represented at the hearing by attorney Pete Domenici Jr. The NMED will also have an attorney present, and a full slate of department representatives, including Solid Waste Bureau Chief Auralie Ashley-Marx, Permit Section Manager George Schuman and Enforcement Officer Teri Monaghan.

Magee expects representatives from Socorro County, Magdalena and Alamo to be at the hearing, since they all have a vested interest in the outcome.

The Socorro County Board of Commission passed a resolution at its Jan. 24 meeting in support of the permit. The resolution, which Magee said will be presented and made part of the record, says that the county’s residents rely solely on the city landfill for solid waste disposal, and failure to obtain the necessary permit would result in major financial hardship.

Sierra County may have a stake in the matter as well.

“They’re looking at utilizing our landfill for their waste,” Magee said.

The city was turned down for a new permit in 2008, due to what the NMED described as a 20-year history of violations,w including failing to control litter, failing to apply a daily cover, failing to maintain an authorized waste training program, and failing to implement a methane monitoring plan.

In 2009, Socorro was faced with the possibility that NMED might require the city to shut down the landfill due to the history of violations and compliance issues. Without a legal landfill in Socorro, trash would have to be hauled out of the county at a considerable expense.

However, in the last few years a series of improvements have been made, and the city has passed all recent inspections with flying colors, and zero violations.

“The landfill staff is doing a wonderful job, they’ve really stepped up, and it’s a very good operation,” Magee told the city council last June, when a new permit application was submitted.

After the hearing, the attorneys will be asked to prepare and submit a formal document called a “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” within 30 days. Then the hearing officer, unless it can be shown that there is reason for cause for an extension of time, will have 30 days to prepare an official recommendation, to be submitted to NMED Cabinet Secretary F. David Martin.

“Three things can happen at that point,” Magee said. “They can issue a permit, they can issue a permit with conditions, or they can deny the permit.”

Magee thinks it likely that the permit will be granted, with some conditions and provisos, but he still wants to see a strong turnout for the hearing.

“I encourage everyone to come and voice their comments, good or bad,” he said.

 


-- Email the author at sbarteau@dchieftain.com.