Study eyes landfill, recycling operation

In an effort to eliminate its annual deficit and improve its services, the Joint Vermillion/Yankton Solid Waste System is undergoing a study of its operations.

Consulting firm HDR, Inc., was awarded a contract earlier this year to complete the evaluation, which is expected to be done by the end of September.

�What they�ll do is put together a plan that would help us run more efficiently, take more recyclables in or whatever the case may be,� said Bob Iverson, director of the solid waste system. �We haven�t had a master plan that I know of, so it was time to get one to decide what would be the best way to do the landfill. We wanted to look at the recycling part of it, also.�

The system is currently facing a variety of challenges � chief among them being an annual deficit of approximately $130,000.

On July 28, the Joint Powers Advisory Board voted to recommend that tipping fees be raised as a way to begin to address the deficit. The 10 percent increase would amount to approximately $4 extra per ton, coming to a total of $40 per ton.

Tipping fees have not been raised since 2002, and the cost to operate per ton has exceeded the current fee.

�This would do something to create a stop-gap as the final, long-range study is being done on the facility,� Yankton City Manager Doug Russell said recently, noting that tipping fees account for only about 12 percent of the total operating costs. �It�s not going to have as huge of an impact as 10 percent may seem.�

The Yankton City Commission is expected to consider the increase at next Monday�s meeting.

Another challenge is that a new trench will soon be needed at the landfill approximately four miles north of Vermillion. According to Yankton Finance Officer Al Viereck, who attends the joint power meetings, it is a complicated decision to determine how deep to dig the trench, which would make it last longer, as well as how to incorporate a new leachate system. The current leachate system is at capacity and new regulations also require an updated mode of disposal.

Leachate is the liquid material that drains from the landfill and must be collected.

The study will also examine the costs and benefits of various recycling methods. Yankton and Vermillion currently use a curbside method wherein residents are asked to sort materials before they are put out for collection. The items are also sorted by solid waste employees as they are placed into the collection vehicle. Other options would be dual stream, where residents are asked to sort containers in one curbside bin and papers in another, and single stream.

�Single stream is where the resident would put everything in one container and then it would be picked up for sorting at a main facility,� Iverson said. �Single stream is probably more expensive because you need the equipment to sort it. However, you could get more participation with single stream. And with more recycling, the landfill would last longer.�

Considering all these factors can be a complicated mass of facts and figures, and Iverson hopes the study helps clarify options for those involved in the operation, as well as the public.

Meetings for the public are being planned for Yankton and Vermillion to allow residents to weigh in on possible changes.

�We�ll look at the costs of doing some of this stuff,� Iverson said. �If it helps save money in the long run, we�ll probably look into it. Hopefully, we can work it out so it is profitable for everyone.�

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