New landfill permit granted

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It’s too early to tell whether landfill rates will climb after the city was approved to open a new lined landfill next to an existing dumping site just off of N.M. 1, according to Socorro City Clerk Pat Salome.

Salome said the city of Socorro is counting on garnering the support of surrounding communities such as Magdalena to support maintenance costs that are associated with the new 116-acre landfill.

Last week, the New Mexico Environment Department signed off on a permit application to allow the city to construct a below ground landfill that will be lined with plastic to prevent contaminants from getting into the groundwater. Without the permit, the city would have had to close the existing site. The permit is good for 20 years.

“We don’t know (if fees are going to change) yet,” Salome said. “But we really haven’t had to make adjustments (in the past).”

Officials will start constructing the new dumping site this summer and officials are relieved that they have made strides in a process that they say has taken the city about 10 years to complete.

In 2008, the city was turned down for a new permit due to what the environment department described as a 20-year history of violations, 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.

The next year, 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.

“We had to (get a permit for a new landfill),” said Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker. “Otherwise, we would be building a transfer station and have to haul it to some place like Rio Rancho.”

Bhasker said the city has spent “millions in engineering” since officials deemed a potential transfer station, where trash would be dumped and hauled to another landfill, “unacceptable.” Since 2008, the city has paid $492,300 in engineering fees alone. Officials were unable to come up with an exact cost of the project.

“Putting a dollar figure is very difficult,” said Mable Gonzales, the city’s treasurer in charge of finance. “Through the years, there have been a lot of engineering fees.”

But Salome said an increased cost to maintain the site shouldn’t be passed onto consumers if residents from neighboring communities use the station. The city is required to extract liquids and maintain monitoring wells on the site to keep track of ground water levels.

The city of Socorro has a joint powers agreement with the village of Magdalena and Socorro County to help with maintenance costs. Each entity currently pays a percentage of what they use minus the revenue that comes from the general public. Socorro averages about 66 percent of the total cost, Socorro County averages about 30 percent and the village of Magdalena pays about 5 percent, according to the city’s billing formula.

The city has used a consultant to prepare the permit application and officials plan on borrowing money to pay for the liner to go over the new site.

Salome said he wants the new landfill to continue to be self-sustaining for local residents.

“We are trying to provide it as efficiently as possible.”

 


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.