New landfill opening soon
The city’s new landfill will be opening in a few months, city clerk Pat Salome said.
The New Mexico Environment Department, a government agency that promotes safe living areas for the state’s residents, approved a permit for the opening of a new solid waste facility in Socorro with some conditions that will try to protect ground water contamination in the area, according to an April press release.
The major factor in preventing that contamination is the addition of an impermeable lining in the landfill. The lining will protect any liquid runoff from the garbage from seeping into the ground. A leachate pipe, positioned in the center of the cell, will transport the runoff to an evaporation pond.
Salome said a contractor will start installing the lining on Sept. 1. About 60 to 90 days after that, the new landfill will be operational. Salome said residents will not see a change in service.
The city estimated the entire production cost of the new landfill is about $1 million, but that cost could have increased without the new landfill because the city would have had to pay fees to dump the garbage in a different county, probably Valencia.
Now, the city is in a position to actually take garbage from other counties. Salome said the city would like to get as many other counties involved as it can because costs would stay low for locals.
The new landfill is anticipated to take in about 45 tons of trash a day with the possibility to expand to 100 tons a day if other counties opt to use the new cells, according to an early 2012 press release.
The cells are just south of the current garbage heap. Mike Lucero, the landfill superintendent, believes it will take three to five years to fill one cell up. To the west of these cells, six more are planned for construction.
After one of the cells is filled up, the city must place a soil cap over the waste that will stop water from getting to the garbage below, according to the press release. The soil cap will also help stop erosion and allow vegetation to grow.
The permit required the city monitor water quality and gas levels in the area for as long as the cells are in use and for 30 years after they close, according to the press release.
After the city closes the current landfill, when the new opens, it will cover the landfill with a layer of rock, then 40 feet of mulch, repeating the pattern all the way to the bottom. The current landfill does not have the impermeable lining.
The lack of this lining is what lead to the Environment Department not approving a new landfill permit in 2008.
Back then, the department proposed a 10-year conditional permit for the city. The intent was to keep Socorro’s past violations of regulations from happening again, according to the press release.
But some of the those violations were due to the age of the landfill and the regulations in place at the time. Socorro’s current landfill was opened in 1988, when regulations did not require cells to be lined.
Between May 1988 and January 1998, the department inspected the landfill 11 times and handed out six notices of violations for, among other things, having excessive litter, lacking a waste cover and not monitoring methane levels, according to a 2008 press release.
The department believed back then the city could not run a landfill effectively and so did not issue a permit. Socorro then applied for a permit in 2001 and again in 2006 with an updated application. The application was then denied at a public hearing in 2008.
However, during another public hearing in February 2012, the department cited “substantial improvement in landfill operations over the past several years” as reason to approve the 20-year permit, according to the April press release.