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November 28, 2014

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Boulder City:

Trash-to-power plans tabled

City applies for new permits for entire landfill

The city no longer plans to solicit proposals for a waste-to-energy plant at the municipal landfill, hoping to avoid any move that could delay permitting by the Southern Nevada Health District, as well as a potential conflict with the landfill operator, officials said.

An attorney for landfill operator Boulder Disposal threatened to block any proposals, claiming the waste that comes into the Boulder City Landfill is the company's exclusively for the rest of its five-year contract.

The City Council Tuesday voted 4-1 to indefinitely table issuing a request for proposal for a trash-to-energy project at the landfill. Councilman Travis Chandler, who has for more than a year supported seeking ways to reduce the amount of trash being buried, voted no.

In October, Chandler, Councilwoman Linda Strickland, city staff members and representatives of Boulder Disposal and the Southern Nevada Health District visited a California plant that incinerates and pummels trash to pulp to study how to turn the mass into energy.

The interest in a trash-to-energy pilot project at the landfill came up as the city was considering how to deal with the fact that the landfill was approaching its capacity.

The city has applied to the Health District to issue a permit for the landfill's entire 74 acres.

The city learned it needed to have new permits for the entire landfill after it applied last year to pile trash 20 feet higher on 10 acres, which would give the landfill three or four more years of life, Mayes said.

The Health District has finished reviewing the application for the 10 acres and planned to send its comments to the city by Jan. 23, a spokeswoman said.

The City Council asked City Attorney Dave Olsen to work with Boulder Disposal's lawyer, Donald Campbell, to find potential ways to seek a project eventually, after the landfill gets its Health District permits.

Boulder Disposal has in the past two years failed inspections by burying trash in non-permitted areas, Mayes said.

Steve Kalish, Boulder Disposal's president, said waste was dumped in those non-permitted areas long ago, and aerial photos can prove it. That precedent should allow further dumping in those areas without adhering to strict federal landfill regulations that went into effect in the 1990s. The aerial photos were not provided to the Boulder City News.

After the tour of the trash-to-energy operation at the Crazy Horse Canyon Landfill in Salinas, Calif., Strickland and Chandler were impressed.

The operation was grinding about 65 percent of its municipal solid waste in large machines that turned the waste into biomass to be tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a possible fuel for energy, a representative said last year.

After the visit, the council agreed to ask companies to bring their machines, and their money, to try out the technology at the landfill here.

But on Jan. 13, Mayes said the city needs to focus on the permits and nothing else.

"It's really important to get the landfill site permitted first," she said. "And because of the contract in place, the time of the proposal seems premature."

Olsen said he supported the recycling idea, but agreed with Boulder Disposal that the city's trash is their property once they pick it up.

Giving the trash to another company at the landfill might violate the contract, he said.

"It's not a good time for us to be getting into any crossways situations with Boulder Disposal," he said. "They're working very hard to get that landfill expansion permit approved. We don't want to be getting into a fight with them about these other things."

Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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