Arlington landfill expansion approved

06/08/2014 3:23 PM

06/08/2014 3:23 PM

The city won’t run out of space for its trash anytime soon.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently awarded Republic Waste Services, the company contracted to operate Arlington’s public landfill, an expansion permit that is expected to keep the city dump open an estimated 57 more years.

With nearly 3,100 tons of trash arriving daily, the landfill in far north Arlington only had about 12 years of operating capacity left under its previous permit, which limits how high and wide the waste can be stacked, officials said.

The expansion will allow the city to continue collecting fees from Republic Services, which hauls in waste from surrounding cities, and will keep Arlington from needing to pay to dump residents’ trash in another city’s landfill. The city collects about $3 million in royalties from the landfill, according to budget documents.

“We’re making money on the deal instead of losing money. Landfills this close to town are not as prevalent as they have been in the past,” said Steve Cooke, Public Works and Transportation assistant director. “It’s a great piece of infrastructure for the city to own and to generate revenue from.”

After nearly two years of review, the TCEQ approved the expansion permit in February, said Eduardo Choquis, Republic Services area environmental manager for North Texas. The Army Corps of Engineers still has to approve the plan, which is expected to happen in the next year.

Pending that approval, Republic Services will be able to increase the height of the existing sloped disposal site by about 100 feet at its tallest point. That is about double the height that is currently allowed from ground level under the previous state permit, allowing the landfill to operate for decades longer.

“That airspace is golden. That is the lifeblood of landfills,” Cooke said. “We’ve created a lot of airspace for ourselves.”

A mountain of trash

But those changes will mostly affect an interior section west of the lower grassy slope that marks the landfill’s eastern boundary, which is what motorists see as they drive along Collins Street. The grassy slope closest to Collins Street at the northeastern edge of the landfill is expected to increase by about 50 feet, Choquis said.

The permit will also allow Republic Services to open a new 80-acre disposal site to the west of the existing landfill, just west of Hurricane Creek. That sloped site, when complete, will be allowed to reach about 250 feet from the ground at its tallest point.

Preparing that site to accept trash will be costly. Republic Services expects to spend about $10 million on the environmentally protective measures required to build on top of a previous landfill, Choquis said. That project won’t begin for at least five years, he said.

The new addition will expand the active landfill’s permitted boundaries to encompass nearly 383 acres.

Arlington began assembling properties back in 1981 and has acquired a total of about 767 acres for the landfill site, said Roger Venables, the city’s real estate manager. The last land purchase was made in 2004.

Placing more emphasis on recycling, especially at commercial businesses and apartment complexes, could help slow down Arlington’s need for landfill expansions, said Zac Trahan, program director for the Texas Campaign for the Environment’s Dallas/Fort Worth office.

“In general, building more landfills and building bigger and bigger landfills is unsustainable in the long run. Most of what we throw away isn’t trash. Most of what we put in our trash cans can be recycled or composted,” Trahan said. “If you send less waste to the landfill, you expand its lifetime.”

With more homes being built near Arlington’s landfill, appearance and odor control remain top priorities.

One of the city’s newest communities, the Viridian master planned development, is springing up to the east of Collins Street near Green Oaks Boulevard. More than 100 families have moved into the 2,300-acre development, and hundreds more homes are expected to be built there in the coming years.

Eventually, Viridian will have 3,500 single-family homes and 1,500 condos, townhouses and apartments.

Republic Services spent about $70,000 late last year to install an odor control system along the Collins Street border. The system releases a scent-free vapor 24 hours a day that neutralizes any odors that may be coming from the trash.

“We don’t get a lot of odor complaints. This site has taken tremendous steps to control odors,” Choquis said.

Trash is also covered with a minimum of six inches of dirt, or a tarp, daily.

“If a particularly smelly loads come in, we will cover that immediately as opposed to the end of the day,” Choquis said. “The Arlington landfill is not a rural landfill by any means. You have a significant subdivision happening across the street. Odor is at the top of the list when it comes to managing the waste.”

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