A hearing was held Sept. 12 to determine the status of the town of Silver City's request to expand and modify the landfill to accept sludge from the town's wastewater treatment plant and from the regional wastewater treatment plant in Bayard.
Witnesses included personnel from the town and the Southwest New Mexico Regional Landfill, as well as witnesses from the New Mexico Environment Department Solid Waste Bureau.
The hearing officer was Felicia Orth, with the hearing clerk being Sally Worthington of the NMED.
Sixteen conditions were recommended by the NMED SWB, with No. 6, being removed, as having been corrected by receipt of the proper tests on a testing form.
Adolfo Mendez, counsel for the Southwest Solid Waste Authority, introduced Michael J. Crepeau, professional engineer. Crepeau presented the sludge disposal management plan per New Mexico statute, with the sludge type and anticipated volumes. Silver City's treatment plant will create 160-230 tons a year and the regional plant will create about 70 tons a year to be deposited in the landfill. The loads will comprise about 30-50 shipments a year for the life of the facility. Presently Silver City hauls its sludge to the Butterfield plant in Deming, at substantial cost to the town.
Prior to acceptance by the landfill, the generator of the sludge is required to ensure the sludge is dewatered and solidified. The generator must also maintain its own contingency plan and spill clean up kits in transport vehicles.
Every 100 cubic yards of sludge must be sampled and analyzed by the generator to demonstrate it is non-hazardous. Deliveries require prior arrangement with the landfill, with numerous forms to fill out and sign by both parties.
The sludge at the end of the working day must be covered with at least 6 inches of clean soil or two feet of waste.
No adverse effects are anticipated to the composite liner and leachate collection systems.
Proposed transport routes from the Silver City wastewater plant and the regional plant were stipulated in the proposal.
Jennifer Hower, NMED deputy general counsel, asked for the determining factor of the routes.
Crepeau said they determined the most expeditious routes that would not access nearby neighborhoods.
Bill Vierthaler, resident just off Ridge Road on Filaree Road, which he described as not being a county-maintained road, asked if his road would be impacted.
Crepeau said it would not, as the treatment plant would haul the sludge back to Broken Arrow Drive before accessing Ridge Road.
Viethaler made the observation that it would put more traffic on Ridge Road.
Mendez introduced the other witnesses for the town and landfill: Danny Legarreta, serving as interim manager of the landfill said he has been with Southwest Solid Waste Authority for 16 years: Diana Temple, landfill executive assistant who takes care of budgets and human resources, said she has also been with the SWSWA for 16 years; and Alex Brown has been the town manager for 11 years, and has been on the SWSWA board for 12 years, first as Silver City finance officer.
Brown said the issue is important to the community, because "we operate the wastewater treatment plant and we have spent each year about $15,000 in tipping fees to the Deming landfill, and that does not include transportation costs. We have in the past few years been seeking new revenue streams for the Solid Waste Authority. We would rather take the sludge in the area and support our own landfill."
"The town has been shipping recycling to El Paso, but with a recycling grant, we plan to compact and sell the recycled items as a revenue stream for the authority," Brown continued.
He said the landfill has had challenges in the past. It was established in 1994, and in 1997, became a contractor-managed facility.
For many years, the difficulty was that the contractor's offices were in Alamogordo, so he was on site in Silver City only periodically.
"When I became chair of the authority, I terminated the contractor, and we hired a general manager with an environmental background," Brown said. "Then we had labor management problems, so the manager was terminated. The third manager had a better background in technology and managerial skills, but did not work out, because the reporting to the board was not good. We had just finished building cells 7 and 8, and it became obvious the board needed to take a more active role in management. Diana focuses on finances and personnel, and Danny focuses on daily operations. We will leave the technical issues to the engineers. The chair will maintain a close relationship with management."
Brown said the board was so far removed from what was going on that it was not aware of compliance issues.
"We are focusing on being involved and have a better relationship with the Solid Waste Bureau," Brown said. "Silver City has a good track record in finance, with six years of audits with no finding. We have an A+ bond rating."
Legarreta said the majority of the employees are certified, with Temple and he certified as landfill operators. Some are certified as modal operators and other as transfer station operators. "We will provide training to employees that require it."
"In the compliance issues, we are trying to meet all requirements," Temple said.
Brown said cells 7 and 8 had to be rebuilt by starting over. "I think the management system will work better for everyone."
Hower asked about the transport schedule. Brown explained that because Silver City and Bayard have their sludge storage full, there would be an increased number of transports for the first few months. "After that, we anticipate about 10 per quarter from Silver City, with more in the summer, when it dries faster. I cannot answer for Bayard, but its plant is about one-third the size."
Orth requested another condition—not to transport on Filaree Road.
"We will not go on Filaree Road," Brown said. "We will access Broken Arrow through Lance Drive to Ridge Road to the landfill. Filaree is not maintained and the others can take the traffic."
Pat Peralta, area resident, said the pavement "is not that thick. Is the road really sufficient?"
Temple answered that it would be a question for an engineer.
Legarreta said the packer trucks were heavier than the sludge trucks will be, as the loads will be dried.
The Solid Waste Bureau also testified. Hower said they would testify on their opinion that the permit should be approved with conditions.
SWB witnesses were William Schueler, environmental specialist in the permit section, and Auralie Ashley-Marx, Solid Waste Bureau Chief.
Schueler said the groundwater is more than 200 feet below the landfill, which is not on or near a floodplain.
He described sludge as a solid or semi-solid, with requirements that must be met. It can be buried or used as a soil amendment, and in this permit, will be buried.
Ashley-Marx said the purpose of her testimony was to present the review and ensure compliance with rules, as well as the completeness and compliance history, including financial records.
"The completion took longer than usual, because the proposal was incomplete," Ashley-Marx said. "Revisions were made, and the liners for cells 7 and 8 were replaced. We reviewed disclosure statements and did background checks on Brown, Legarreta and Temple, with no findings."
She said the compliance history was below average, with the operational history unable to meet reporting requirements or placement of the required $65,000 into a reserve account, except for one year, when it was done.
As of July 2011, the authority had $1.7 million in the fund, enough for closure and post closure, but not enough for implementation.
She explained Condition 6 would be removed, as it was fixed by Crepeau's testimony.
Ashley-Marx said the permit was being awarded with conditions because it is a greater benefit for the department, as it involves a small amount of sludge and little risk to public safety, with a significant benefit to manage the sludge locally.
The conditions are (paraphrased):
1) This permit is valid only for the acceptance of sludge;
2) The final version of the modification shall become part of the permit and shall be enforceable pursuant to the Solid Waste Act and the Solid Waste Rules;
3) The applicant shall comply with applicable provisions of the Solid Waste Act and Solid Waste Rules throughout the life of the facility;
4) The term of the permit to accept sludge shall expire on Dec. 19, 2014, concurrently with the expiration of the existing 20-year municipal solid waste facility permit:
5) The Authority shall provide a municipal solid waste permit renewal application that substantially complies with all applicable requirements and it shall be prepared by a qualified and experienced solid waste engineer or engineering firm, who will be agreed upon by the NMED and the Authority. It must include the request to accept sludge;
7) The Authority and/or landfill managers shall obtain a Disposal Management Plan from each generator of sludge prior to accepting any sludge. The SWB enforcement section must approve the DMPs within 10 days of receipt;
8) A DMP for a single generator may be revised at any time, with approval of the SWB;
9) Sludge shall not be disposed of in cell 6;
10) A copy of an updated and fully executed resolution establishing a Local Government Reserve Fund shall be provided and approved by the NMED cabinet secretary;
11) Within 15 days of issuance of the permit, the authority must schedule a meeting with the Solid Waste Bureau chief to discuss how formulas in 18.104.22.168 NMAC will be calculated and payments established;
12) Within 30 days of issuance of the permit, the authority must provide to the SWB chief a bank statement or report clearly summarizing deposits and account balances by date in the Local Government Reserve Fund account for period from July 1, 2009 to July 1, 2012;
13) A detailed written financial assurance estimate must be prepared annually and shall contain a table or narrative that shows the amount and frequency that fund payments will be placed into the fund. The estimate shall be prepared by a qualified consultant or engineering firm, and submitted on or before Feb. 14 each year;
14) A copy of the annual financial assurance estimate, a bank statement or report that includes reserve fund balances, a copy of resolution establishing the reserve fund, information about the formula used for the fund and a copy of the approved permit conditions shall be provided to the independent auditor;
15) Authority staff must discuss financial assurance requirements and issues with previous audit reports with the independent auditor, and the documentation must be kept in the landfill operating record;
16) All narrative notes in future audit reports starting with fiscal year 2012 must be modified to comply with the requirements of 20.9.10 NMAC. SWB staff will verify the appropriate changes have been made.
In addition, Orth requested that the condition about trucks not using Filaree Road should be included.
Mendez asked about the renewal permit. Ashley-Marx said the application for renewal must be sent a year in advance of expiration of the permit.
Mendez asked several other questions and said items had been sent in that would meet conditions. As a result, Orth said she would keep the record open until Oct. 12, and that all revisions should be submitted to Worthington.