The Bear Lake County Landfill is reaching its limits. At just a little over 20 tons per day of trash, with a 20-ton per day limit, the landfill is reaching its life expectancy as an “unlined” county landfill, able to receive all municipal (household) trash.

It’s not the only county landfill that is having this problem either. Caribou County Landfill is another that has reached or surpassed its capacity as an “unlined” county landfill, along with several other Bear Lake neighboring county landfills.

The problem with having this large quantity of trash dumped at a landfill that is “unlined” is that it severely affects the underlying groundwater quality. Damage by seepage from leachate is a common problem in older landfills. So, in order to bring it up to Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) standards, each county would need to spend a considerable amount of money to have its landfill lined, both top and bottom, to prevent hazardous materials from leaking into the groundwater and seriously contaminating it. This solution is not very practical.

A better solution is for several communities or counties to band together and develop a “regional” landfill that is lined and can accept larger amounts of trash. This is a much more cost-effective solution and is much more practical. As well, the DEQ is very supportive of regional landfills because they are so much easier to monitor. That is just what Bear Lake, Caribou, Oneida, and Lincoln Counties (EDAWY) are working toward doing — developing a regional landfill. A USDA loan and a SAM grant have been applied for, and 10 sites have been picked as possible sites for a regional landfill that will take the weight off of the smaller county landfills and bring everything up to code. If more counties become interested, they can be added at any time.

Also, each county has a representative from their county board of commissioners; Bear Lake County’s representatives are Brad Jensen and Scott Esquibel.

The existing landfills in each county will remain where they are but will become transfer stations that will also accept construction and demolition material, but not hazardous waste or municipal trash. A transfer station cuts costs by providing pick-up and collection services to communities and temporarily holding the waste.

The purpose of this plan is to considerably save money. It will also not take anything away from the existing landfills, which will keep the same rules and regulations as they have now. The only thing that will change is that each county’s household trash will go to a regional landfill instead, via the transfer station.

EDAWY (the counties) comes together in sincerely hoping this will be a tremendously helpful and cost-effective answer to the existing landfill problems. Regional landfills have been shown to be quite effective in other areas of the country where local and small-town or county landfills have become outdated or outgrown. Environmental studies have already been done on each of the existing landfills. According to commissioner Jensen, funding should come through in six months to a year, at which time sampling and environmental impact studies can begin on the final selected site. From that point on, it will be just a matter of construction and development of the landfill.

In the meantime, please keep following the rules and regulations of your existing county landfill. Most importantly, the majority of the landfills do not accept appliances that contain Freon because it adversely affects the underlying groundwater. However, the Caribou County Landfill is equipped to accept refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners that contain Freon as long as you do not take the Freon out yourself and the appliance is emptied of all foods and containers.