More thoughts on the landfill issues

I have not forgotten about the main mission of this blog, which is to document fracking in our neighborhood.  However, the appearance of the Pratt well site has not changed in recent weeks, and I have yet to see a wall go up at the Waste Connections site.  I plan to contact the Encana representatives for an update on the time-frame of drilling operations (as my sense is that they are now behind in their revised schedule).  But for now, I’d like to make a few more comments about the Landfill Liquid Solidification Site plans, and its relationship to fracking waste.

After my last post, Liz Fisher was kind enough to share the records she had obtained from the Town of Erie that pertain to Front Range Landfill’s request.  Here is a copy of the records: Records related to Landfill Liquid Solidification Site (click to open)

After reading through the records, I have additional concerns:

1)  The Traffic Impact Memorandum found that there are currently “858 truck trips per day generated by the site.”  This is nearly double the 300-500 trucks per day that was quoted by Dan Gudgel at the meeting I attended.  Furthermore, at that meeting, all of the landfill representatives quoted a number of ~30 additional trucks per day if the liquid solidification site were operational.  Yet the Traffic Impact Memorandum cites 60 additional truck trips per day with the addition of the liquid solidification site.

I find this new information disturbing on many levels.  The large disparity in the numbers diminishes the credibility of the information that the landfill representatives shared at the neighborhood meeting.  Furthermore, the idea that an average of 858 diesel trucks per day are passing within a mile (or less) of our homes and schools, sharing toxic exhaust fumes and pollution alarms me.   I would not want to see this already outrageously large number get any bigger.  Plus Erie is already lacking in roads and infrastructure necessary to support the ongoing subdivision development.  Adding more traffic is a bad idea.  Period.

2) Within the August 1 letter from the Department of Public Health, there is a statement seeking clarification of how bulking agents will be covered up and stored (if necessary) next to the mixing basin.  Prior to reading this, it had not occurred to me that bulking agents or liquid might have to sit around and be “stored” prior to mixing.  Given variable weather conditions (wind gusts, precipitation) in Erie, the idea of planning for mitigation of “run-off” is worrisome.

3) The letter from the Colorado Geological Survey makes two points that should give the Town of Erie pause as the trustees consider approval of the liquid solidification site.  The first is that Erie was once a coal mining town, and many areas have been undermined, thus leading to instability of the ground above.  The Columbine Mine lies 150-300 feet below the site of the proposed liquid solidification facility.  Consequently, there is risk of subsidence; the geologist who authored the report recommends that facility design should include “appropriate mitigation for potential subsidence occurrence.”  The second point is that the clay soil and bedrock has the potential to swell, and further testing of the soil should be performed prior to building the concrete pad.

Subsidence is a problem for Erie — even when builders have taken precautions to “mitigate” the risk.  Here’s one site to check out (click to open).  Here is another (click to open).

Planning and prevention do not guarantee that subsidence will not be an issue.

With or without fracking waste, this liquid solidification site may impose more problems on the residents of Erie.

Again, if the Board of Trustees were to approve the liquid solidification site, nothing is lost by imposing a ban on fracking fluid.  (In fact, we have much to gain by such a ban).  However, in light of more complete information, I certainly hope the Board does not approve the liquid solidification plans at all.  I argue that increased traffic pollution and congestion, risk of “run-off”, and risk of subsidence (which would exacerbate the risk of run off) should be enough for the Board of Trustees to stand up and say no to Front Range Landfill’s request.

Now a few residents have also expressed concerns about the lack of testing of the liquids that would enter the landfill under the proposed plans.  And that is certainly a legitimate worry.  But I think that actually begs a more broad reaching question, about any of the materials that enter the landfill.  If we are only relying on the paperwork (MSDS listings) that accompanies the trucks to the landfill, how can we really be sure that toxic substances are not finding their way in without a paper trail?  There may already be answers to these questions; I have not specifically asked anyone at Front Range Landfill how they verify that what is on the truck is what the paperwork says is on the truck.  Perhaps these questions are better directed to the Colorado Department of Public Health, since oversight of waste management falls under its jurisdiction.

After mulling over the many issues surrounding the landfills and fracking in our neighborhood in the past few weeks, I have concluded that there are things that we as individual citizens can do to make a difference.  Unfortunately,  landfills are a necessary evil.  As a society, we consume in large quantities, and we generate waste.  Maybe everyone should live next to a landfill so that they are prompted to think more about garbage.  We all need to care about the waste that we are creating, and the heritage we are leaving to future generations.  We consume consume consume.  The challenge that I have given myself is to buy less and generate less waste.   So many people in the world live with less than what we have.  Even fracking is a problem of our own making, in that we are trying to provide ourselves more energy sources to feed our insatiable appetite for energy consumption.

Maybe we can all start to do more with less.

Erie is an old coal mining town.  It would not have existed without the mines, and parts of our history should make us proud. However, undermined areas cause problems for homeowners today.  I wonder what our legacy of oil/gas wells and landfills will do for (and to) future generations in Erie.

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