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Erik Burgess, Published February 08 2014

Fargo looks to upgrade old landfill for reuse

FARGO – Crews here have been digging up decades-old trash in an attempt to clean up the city’s former landfill and perhaps get it ready for future use.

Fargo’s current landfill at 4501 7th Ave. N. has about nine years before it’s full, so the city is starting to upgrade its old landfill across the street, said Terry Ludlum, solid waste utility manager.

The old 160-acre landfill is the leading contender for Fargo’s new dump once the current one fills up, he said. The old site was used from about 1950 to 1980 and was not filled very effectively, he said.

The city is still studying other options as it works through a 25-year long-range landfill plan, which should be finished in about three months.

In the meantime, Ludlum said crews will work piecemeal to bring the old landfill up to current standards.

“Anytime you’ve got something in a situation where it’s not up to current standards, there’s the possibility that, at some point in time, the state or EPA or whoever could come in and say ‘Hey, listen, you need to bring that all up to current regulations.’” Ludlum said. “So it’s sitting there as a financial liability.”

It could be a multimillion-dollar liability, that is. Reclaiming – or updating – about 4 acres of the old site recently cost the city $645,000, based on volume of trash and soil used to cover it.

Because the pricing is based on volume, not acreage, Ludlum said he couldn’t guess for how much the entire 160-acre reclamation would cost, but he said it will easily be a multimillion-dollar project.

When the former landfill was in operation, crews used bulldozers to dig out 10-foot-deep trenches. Liners used to protect the earth from any liquid that runs through the trash – called leachate – were not standard.

Ludlum estimated that if the old landfill had been properly compacted, it would maybe take up 30 to 35 percent of the space it is taking up now.

As crews work to upgrade the old site, they’ll remove the trash, store it in a clay bunker nearby, and install a liner before dumping the trash back into place.

Ludlum said a consultant is on site to make sure crews take care of any environmental concerns, including odors.

The city has a couple of other options for a future landfill, but there are reasons why they aren’t frontrunners, Ludlum said.

Fargo owns about 282 acres in Harwood Township that was purchased to be a landfill, but Ludlum said the latest floodplain maps label some of that land as prone to flooding.

The city also owns some land in West Fargo, but Ludlum said the city is probably “best served” to stay within Fargo city limits for now.

In order to put new trash in the old landfill, Fargo would need to go to the state Health Department to get the site re-permitted.

Ludlum said they hope the old site would last about 25 more years. The reclamation process would continue over that time.

In the meantime, the city would continue to look at other long-range options, including incinerators or new technology, Ludlum said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518