Landfill expected to last 40 more years

Currently in the process of closing a cell at the Carroll-Grayson-Galax Regional Landfill, the Carroll-Grayson-Galax Solid Waste Authority has announced that the Hillsville landfill site will be good for at least 40 years.

Sam Dickson, a former member of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors and current member of the Carroll-Grayson-Galax Solid Waste Authority (SWA), broke the news to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors at its Feb. 14 meeting. Dickson said the SWA is made up of three members each from Galax, Grayson County and Carroll County. Dickson, Supervisor Rex Hill, who is vice president of the SWA, and Carroll County Administrator Mike Watson represent Carroll County.

“I have good news for you. This is a good thing. The Carroll-Galax-Grayson Solid Waste started in 1993 with these three locations,” Dickson said. “It’s been a great success and we’ve used it across the state as a way for communities to work together regionally to do good things. They took us as an example. We are closing a cell now and the first thing people are going to ask you is how long is this dump going to be there? Do any of you have an idea?

President Tracy Moore was the only person willing to risk a guess, saying he thought the dump would last 30 more years in Hillsville.

“It’s good for at least 40 more years, and then we’ll go to Grayson County. We are closing a cell now. It will likely be in use for the next three years,” Dickson said. “And it costs well over $2 million. Everything solid waste does, we pay for it in advance. We try not to have any debts.

Dickson told the board that the SWA is controlled primarily by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). He said the regional landfill couldn’t just dump trash somewhere and leave it. It must be concealed and certain rules must be respected.

“There are a lot of good things we did there. We’ve had a minimal price increase since the start in 1993,” Dickson said. “Tipping has increased (by one dollar) in 29 years. 29 years ago it was $43 a ton, now it’s $44. The current rate for household garbage is citizens bring it in, 90 gallons or less $4, for over 90 gallons – $8.

Of course, citizens can also sign up to have Waste Industries picked up at a very reasonable price, Dickson said. As a senior, Dickson said he paid $47 every three months for the service, which he called a bargain. The price for an entire year would be $218, he added.

“DEQ also requires a minimum of 15% recycling. We recycle 29%, so we have a head start on that,” Dickson said. “We keep our prices low because we keep late-model equipment, which avoids downtime and repair costs. The landfill, you increase your lifespan by compacting it. The more trash you compact, the more you can get into that bin, saving you money. We found that the machinery we were using that drove over it, we bought a bigger string that compacts it better, so we can really increase the life of the cell by doing that. We try to stay on top of everything. We look at all the ways you can save money. We knew we were going to be there for another 40 years, so we built a new business office and it’s a very nice structure. When this project was built, we did not borrow any money. We didn’t have to borrow a penny.

Dickson said the SWA purchased 34 acres of property adjacent to the Hillsville landfill. A new tire and lumber chipper saved the Authority $121,000 and will pay for itself in about 2.5 years.

As for the landfill itself, Dickson said at closing time that each day’s new waste had to be covered. The SWA has purchased a tarp, and each day at the end of the day the tarp is used to cover all new garbage.

“We used to cover it with wood chips, tire chips and dirt and it stayed there. The tarp comes off so they can save as much space,” Dickson said. “It’s well worth what we’re doing it for, and then we hear again, ‘Why did you buy a tire and wood chipper? We did this because the edges of the property still have trash and you still need to cover it. That’s what we use.

Construction of the new airframe mentioned earlier by Dickson cost SWA $2.3 million and is over 90% complete. The cell measures 4.6 acres and has a life expectancy of 4.5 years, Dickson said.

“It will give us three (years) more,” Dickson said. “We are ready for at least 40 years, maybe more.”

The Carroll-Grayson-Galax Regional Landfill has eight full-time employees and one part-time employee. Dickson said the SWA was conducting a study to ensure these employees were paid fairly so they were not lost to other employers.

“Machine operators are hard to find. Hoping we can keep them,” Dickson said. “Alan Lawson is the manager and he invites anyone wishing to visit the landfill to contact him.”

Supervisor Jody Early said the Hillsville landfill hasn’t taken glass for recycling in some time.

“It kills me to throw glass,” Early said.

Dickson said some of the items the landfill collects for recycling are simply no longer purchased by anyone. Early said the local landfill also needed another way to collect plastic bags such as Walmart bags, saying receptacles are often full. He also felt it was time to move the dump to another locality.

“I really appreciate the effort to extend the life of the landfill, but don’t you think 80 years of a landfill is enough? It’s time someone else did it,” said Early.

Dickson said the regional deal was supposed to go alongside Grayson, but the number of years Carroll would have was grossly underestimated. Dickson said the SWA is doing the best it can, but at best it’s still a dump, something no one wants.

“Yeah, but 80 is more than our fair share,” Early said.

Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter @AWorrellTCN

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