VernonReporter

Citizens raise concerns about Vernon County Landfill as expansion plan moves forward

VIROQUA, Wis. – In October of 2023 the Vernon County Board of Supervisors voted 14-3 to expand the Vernon County landfill. The expansion will extend the life of the landfill for an estimated 15 years. The expansion was necessary because the landfill only has enough capacity to stay open for a couple more years, depending on the volumes taken in.

The approval of the expansion was the culmination of about a four year process of contracting for, and completing, a 2,368 page feasibility study that was also submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in October. The study was conducted by the engineering firm Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) at a cost of about $385,000. The study examined an extensive list of items that are almost too numerous to list, but included soil borings within 300 feet of proposed expansion, geotechnical investigations, monitoring well data, existing static water elevations, vertical hydraulic gradients, the facilities leachate management system, waste volumes and type, surface water management, traffic and hauling routes, and on and on.

To read more about the county discussion on the expansion proposal and the vote to approve the plan you can read about it in our previous story here. You can also read about the City of Viroqua discussion and vote on their agreement to send their waste to the Vernon County facility in our previous story here.

Some history of the Vernon County Solid Waste and Recycling Facility

Before getting into the proposed landfill expansion, and the concerns some residents have raised about it’s safety recently, some background how the landfill came to be and why there is a need for the expansion.

The Vernon County Solid Waste and Recycling facility was built on 160 acres in the Viroqua Township in the early 90’s at the request of the municipalities after the DNR mandated the closure of the smaller unlined “dumps.” The idea was to consolidate disposal efforts across the county and help shelter Vernon County from liability by having control over where the county waste goes. The actual site used for waste disposal is currently about 9.6 acres.

The county landfill operates under what is known as an enterprise fund. Enterprise funds are intended to generate their own revenue through fees or other sources like grants, and not depend on county tax levy revenues. The county nursing facility (Vernon Manor) operates as an enterprise fund. The city of Viroqua golf course and airport operate as enterprise funds.

Vernon County Landfill photo

Since the county solid waste facility opened in the early 1990’s it has generally operated without tax levy input, but has from time to time borrowed funds from the county general fund for large purchases or capital projects that it pays back with generated revenue from tipping fees, or income charged to those hauling waste to the facility. Historically tipping fees have been in the $60 per ton range.

Vernon County made the choice when it sited the facility that it would own its own facility to limit liability by building the facility over and above DNR standards, and that the county would have control over the waste stream of residents inside the county. The county intentionally purchased more land than was needed to ensure room for expansion and to create and large buffer between the facility and its neighbors.

The decision to approve the expansion was not an easy one for the county and the process has included many contentious meetings at the committee level and the board level. At the heart of the issue is whether or not the county facility can maintain enough volume to generate enough revenue to keep the facility operating without tax levy support.

Ordinance change causes volume issues

When the county first opened the facility it operated under solid waste hauling ordinance 54-1(a), which states “No state licensed waste hauler shall collect or transport solid waste within Vernon County without a solid waste hauler’s license issued by Vernon County.” In the license the hauler was required to obtain it stated all Vernon County waste must be brought to the Vernon County landfill. That ensured Vernon County waste stayed in Vernon County and went to the local facility.

In 2018 some of the haulers in the county challenged that ordinance and county corporation counsel advised the county that the ordinance may not be enforceable. According to Sanborn, at the advice or county corporation counsel the county established ordinance 54-2 solid waste flow control ordinance that references State Statute 287 that Sanborn argued at the time, did not apply to Vernon County.

Following that change the counties largest hauler at that time, Southwest Sanitation (now GFL Environmental), built a transfer station and began hauling a portion of their waste out of the county. That caused a fairly substantial operating deficit for the county. In response the county solid waste committee decided to negotiate individual contracts and tipping fees with each hauler in an effort to entice more volume to come to the facility. Southwest Sanitation saw a tipping fee reduction from $60 a ton to $49 a ton, and in return pledged to haul 90 percent of its waste to the Vernon County facility. Southwest was recently purchased by GFL Environmental Inc , a waste management company based in Toronto, Canada.

Vernon County Landfill photo

GFL pledged to honor the Southwest contract to haul waste they collect locally to the Vernon County facility , but that hauling agreement ended at the end of 2023. That amounted to about 11,000 tons a year. Now that that agreement has expired GFL is hauling its waste to a landfill that GFL owns and operates in Eau Claire, with the exception of the city of Viroqua waste that the Viroqua City Council designated to be directed to the Vernon County facility as part of a recent hauling contract signed by the city and GFL.

Prior to 2018 the facility saw about 17,000 tons of waste a year and generated sufficient revenue to operate without tax levy support. With the inability to enforce a flow control ordinance those volumes began to fluctuate and made budgeting more difficult. It also made calculating volumes and revenues difficult to predict for purposes of an expansion. In order to secure enough waste to guarantee revenue to operate and pay for an expansion, Solid Waste Administrator Stacie Sanborn negotiated agreements or “Memorandums of Understanding” with the majority of towns, villages and cities in the county. The MOU’s were an agreement between the local unit of government and the county stating they agreed to send their waste to the facility, regardless of hauler, in exchange for a reduce tipping fee based on years of commitment.

By the time of the vote to expand in October, Sandborn had secured commitments from about 77 percent of the county households to send their waste to the facility.

Not so fast – county attorney says MOU’s may not hold up

Following the approval of the expansion the county Infrastructure Committee (that oversees solid waste department) instructed Sandborn that MOUs would not be signed by the county on advice legal counsel following a closed session meeting on October 17. You can read our previous story about the infrastructure committee discussion and vote on those MOUs here.

When asked why the county decided to rescind the MOUs Vernon County Administrative Coordinator Cassie Hanan said “The basis behind the County not moving forward with the MOUs has to do with the enforcement of the county’s flow control ordinance, and how it relates to state statutes.”

What Hanan was likely referring to were letters sent to county board members and local units of government from attorneys representing GFL that state they viewed the MOU’s as the county trying to implement “backdoor flow control”.

The rescission of the MOU’s has made planning future volumes even more tricky, but Sanborn told her committee the majority of the municipalities that agreed to the MOUs are still sending the waste to the county, including the city of Viroqua for at least one year. Sanborn reported to the committee that volumes for the month was down about 38 percent from the previous year and overall the volume was down 13 percent for the year.

Impact to financials

Even with the fluctuating volumes and the turmoil surrounding the future of the facility, Sanborn reported revenue of about $1.3 million in 2023 with about a $136,000 cash loss, but that includes the one time expenditure of the $385,000 for the feasibility study. Overall the facility was at 98 percent of budgeted revenue and 124 percent of budgeted expenses. Once depreciation is included (the first time the facility has included that cost) the loss for the year ends up at around $244,000. The recycling program saw a profit of almost $12,000 for the year.

Sanborn said the department does have a cash account that has about $310,000 in the treasurers accounts, and most of that is from an insurance settlement for a large piece of equipment that was destroyed when it caught fire.

Recycling expansion push back

At the December Infrastructure Committee meeting Sanborn reported to her committee that she had received calls from county businesses that had switched haulers, and shortly after ythey made the switch to a new hauler the received letters from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that someone had turned them in to the state for not following state recycling requirements. Sanborn said the businesses had been reported through the DNR’s anonymous tip line. The businesses told Sanborn their previous hauler picked up commingled recycling, but their new hauler did not handle commingled recycling, and they were asking her about recycling options. Sanborn said she got calls from about 30 businesses in all, many of them in the city of Viroqua, but also in other parts of the county.

Sanborn said the department had offered recycling services to larger businesses in the past but had held off on expanding recycling because of the uncertainty of the expansion. Telling her committee “why expand if there is not going to be a department.” But now that the expansion has been approved she decided to try a pilot project to help the businesses and increase the recycling efforts that could reduce the amount of waste being land filled.

Sanborn said she had a semi-trailer of dumpsters not being used and she distributed them to the businesses on a trial basis, telling them she would assess how much the service would cost after she got a feel for how much volume would be generated, and how much time would be involved to run a route.

Several committee members were not happy with that decision. Supervisor Charles Jacobson said Sanborn should have run the decision past the committee.

Vernon County Board Chair and Infrastructure Committee Chair Lorn Goede

“I think bottom line, the intent is wonderful,” said Jacobson “I think starting programs without letting us know, because then we get blindsided, that’s the issue. I don’t even think that’s the biggest issue, because there’s been several things throughout, I’ve only been on two years. There’s nothing I hate worse than going to breakfast and I get hit with something that I don’t know about that somebody created, or something did they. Well it’s your committee. But if we’re not aware of it, it puts us in a horrible position. All it takes is delaying it till you have a meeting and saying this is what I’m looking at doing. At least we know what’s going on otherwise it makes it look like you’re trying to start something that you shouldn’t, but you’re doing it on your
own, and it’s coming up after the fact. And it’s like, well we already started so we can’t stop. Where maybe just slow down a bit, at least let us find out what’s going on and then proceed.”

Committee chair and County Board Chair Lorn Goede said Sanborn did contact him prior to moving ahead with the idea and he gave his approval to give the program a try.

“Well, I guess Stacie talked to me about it,” said Goede. “And it was something that we were already doing with other businesses so I guess I thought it was, my apologies, I thought it was past practice and I should have, I guess put the brakes on it and said let’s take it to
committee.”

“My concern is the expansion,” said Jacobson “You know if you can do it with existing staff time, but where do you draw the line? Where does one business say, okay, we’re going to do it for you and the next one you say well we can’t do it anymore.”

Supervisor Paul Wilson said that a normal part of growth for any business.

“All businesses make those decisions as they expand,” said Wilson. “They might have an initial vision statement, and it can change.”

Goede said he looked at the service as an expansion of something being provided but it would probably have been better to inform the committee.

“From the outside it makes it look like you’re trying to skirt the issue and back door it,” said Jacobson.

“I was never aware that you did recycling for anyone other than municipalities,” said Supervisor Kyle Semke. “So it’s new to me. I’ve never been aware you did any recycling for any private business owners.”

County Board Supervisor and Infrastructure Committee Member Kyle Semke

Goede suggested bringing numbers back to the committee at a future meeting to get an assessment of the costs and potential income from the program.

Sanborn did come back in January and reported they had picked at 13 businesses with two routes, an east route and a west route, and the volume was not as high as expected so they will likely only need to run the routes once a month.

Sanborn estimated the cost to run the routes at about $422 per month and would see a revenue increase of $714 for a $291 profit. So a profit of about $3,500 a year without charging businesses anything, assuming prices for recycled materials stay the same.

Supervisor Martha Olson asked if the department has the capacity to expand.

“I guess what I’m thinking is what if a lot of businesses want to go to this?” asked Olson. “And then you’re kind of forced to have to be, once you start this, if it picks up, and then do you have the time and the manpower? And then you have to hire someone.”

“I don’t see an issue in expanding our recycling program,” said Sanborn. “That’s one of the huge driving concerns of the town host committee is that we are not recycling. We’re not putting it out there. We’re not educating. We need to work better with the community. This is a great way, in the past we’ve only worked with a handful of businesses. And it’s usually one off items. This is like actual regular recycling and there is no other outlet for it other than the one hauler we have in our area. If anybody wants to ship it to La Crosse they can work with Harter’s and right now to get rid of your recycling it’s $90 to $95 a ton.”

“I get that but what I’m saying is you got 13 now what if 13 more want to come on?” asked Olson.

Sanborn said the time to run the routes and handle the additional material is manageable with current staff.

Semke asked why the businesses needed the service now and did not before.

County Board Supervisor and Infrastructure Committee Member Martha Olson

“They switch to a different provider and that provider does not have an outlet for recycling other than sending it to the La Crosse system at Harter’s paying 90 to $95 a ton,” said Sanborn. “So we operate the Vernon County recycling program. It’s a break even, and I understand the concern of capacity, because, yeah, we don’t need the whole county jumping on board right away, but this is already a month in and we haven’t had any additional requests.”

“What Martha was getting at if everybody says, oh, the county will do it for me for nothing irregardless, if I have a hauler or not, that’s not going to work,” said Semke. “Because we’re not going to be able to accommodate that.”

Sanborn said the volume increase has value because of the ability to sell the recycled materials and that offsets any increase in costs.

Supervisor Mary Henry said she wants to the county to promote recycling.

“Don’t we want to promote recycling? said Henry. “I mean, I would think as a county that we would want to do everything and anything in our power to promote people to recycle so we don’t have to keep coming back to this airspace (in the landfill). If people recycled we wouldn’t be in this predicament that we are with our airspace being used up. Because there just isn’t that much garbage if you start pulling out everything that could possibly be recycled. I know from our home there is very little that is actual garbage that goes in there, and if we can promote say, okay, we’ll pick these up. We all know how many boxes there are anymore. Everything’s shipped in a box. Cardboard is a premium right now, because of that Amazon has changed the world. So please, let’s be proactive instead of thinking all of the negatives.”

Some committee members suggested charging a fee now to make sure there is not a loss if recycling markets go down. Sanborn said she would like to continue without a fee for now and see what the response is to the program. Sanborn provided more evidence of demand for the service telling the committee she was recently approached by the Village of Cashton who is considering revamping their recycling collection to fit the Vernon County facility system, so they can use the Vernon County recycling program. Sanborn said that is potentially another revenue stream for the facility.

“Getting back to this recycling program,” said Semke. “I’m not real excited about this, for doing this for the businesses because I think it’s going to snowball into a problem.”

The committee approved a motion to continue the program and send a letter to the businesses letting them know the program will be reassessed in six months and there could be a small fee at that time if the county is able to cover the cost of operations.

The Vernon County Recycling Program was recognized by the DNR in 2020 for their continued effort to grow the program by adding cleanup days and ecycling programs that have been in high demand. The award states it “Recognizes programs that are robust and constantly improving, demonstrating a commitment to advance the overall recycling/diversion program.”

Town host agreement – local township demands

Anytime a landfill is sited in Wisconsin the local unit of government does get some say so in how the facility is run. In this case the county has a “town host” agreement with the town of Viroqua where the landfill is located. As a part of the expansion approval process that agreement is renegotiated. A host agreement does not give the township the ability to approve or deny the expansion, only some say so in certain aspects of operation like hours, transportation routes, trash and litter control.

The town of Viroqua has appointed a committee to negotiate that agreement and has been meeting with Sanborn and the county. At the December meeting the Viroqua negotiating committee chair, AnnaJo Doerr presented the infrastructure committee with a list of items they want included in the agreement. That list includes about 35 items.

Some of the larger demands include raising the townships cut of how much they get from tipping fees from .50 cents to $3 a ton. Testing all wells within a one mile radius of the facility and installing an onsite waste water treatment plant, installing a methane capture system, and installing a tarp cover system to improve litter control (the facility currently covers the waste with dirt every night).

Sanborn said they are looking at meeting as many of the demand as possible including the tarp cover system, but some of the items will likely be impossible to meet like an onsite waste water treatment system or methane capture. Sanborn said the engineers have told her those systems have been tried in other facilities and they are seldom cost effective.

If the town of Viroqua and the county are not able to come to an agreement, on what is in the agreement, then the agreement will go to arbitration and an arbitrator will decide what is included or not included. The video below includes the discussion on the host agreement and the town of Viroqua’s requests.

Residents raise safety concerns

Some Vernon County residents have raised concerns about the safety of the landfill and it’s potential to leak and contaminate ground water, and the facilities financial viability. A number of residents raised concerns before the expansion was approved and have become even more vocal after the vote, citing a “letter of incompleteness” from the DNR seeking more information from the county about their expansion plan. Those opposed to the expansion have been circulating information through emails and online posts pointing to the letter as evidence that he landfill has safety issues and should not be expanded. But Sanborn and the engineering firm that did the feasibility study (SEH) have been clear throughout the process that it is common for the DNR to send such a letter as a way of getting clarification or more details about the feasibility study and it does not necessarily mean the DNR will not approve the application.

Brian Kent is the Project Manager with SEH who helped compile the Vernon County expansion feasibility study. Kent told the Infrastructure Committee in September of last year that it would actually be unusual to not get such a letter from the DNR. Sanborn said S.E.H. has worked on the report for three years, and had seven different professional engineers, hydrogeologists and geologists working on and compiling the results of the report. Now that the report has been submitted to the DNR, Sanborn said it will be reviewed by 10 different departments within the DNR.

“Once the DNR has it (the report) in hand and once they have the invoice paid for the feasibility review they have 65 days to issue a notice of completeness,” said Kent “At that point once the DNR determines it to be complete, then they have 60 days to approve it. Now there’s a couple other things that go in there, but in my 30 years I’ve never seen one go through the DNR without a notice of incompleteness, they want some additional information, every time that happens that pauses that 65-day review until they have the information that they need. Once they get that notice for completion then they post a public notice to be published. A notice to folks saying: hey, you have 30 days to provide comments.”

The “letter of incompleteness” below was sent to the county on Dec. 19. The letter asks for additional data and investigation. It specifically asks for more investigation into “groundwater flow conditions around the southeast corner of the expansion area.”

Sanborn raised the issue of information circulating throughout the county at the January Infrastructure Committee meeting and asked for permission to address the concerns publicly. She noted the information raised concerned about leaking landfills contaminating groundwater.

“So landfills, once they came out with the EPA, the subtitle D landfill, they came out with that design because prior to that everybody was just throwing their garbage in a hole in
the ground,” said Sanborn. “So the DNR came through and closed all those landfills and everybody that built a landfill after that date had to have a subtitle D landfill, which was designed by the EPA under RCRA, Resource Conservation Recovery Act, and that’s in EPA regulation.”

Sanborn said the original landfill was built above and beyond state and federal standards, and the expansion would be as well.

“The current landfill was originally designed, had one of the first, where the leachate was pumped up and over the berm instead of going directly through the initial berm,” said Sanborn. “Within the landfill it also has a five foot clay liner, which code requires four. We have an 18 inch filter sand protective layer over the 60 mil liner when 12 inches is required. So the current landfill was built above spec and I believe we continued that was continued in the design of the expansion.”

Sanborn added all the water that flows through waste (leachate) is also collected and hauled to a treatment facility. Sanborn said she reached out the engineers at SEH and the DNR to see if they would respond to the public information questioning the safety of the design. Sanborn read a response from Mark Peters with the DNR to the committee regarding the letter of incompleteness and the public concerns about groundwater contamination.

I can tell you that the concern raised by some residents that landfill liners are likely to fail
within 30 years does not appear to be supported by available data. Wisconsin solid waste code for landfills is based on the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and subtitle D, which was developed in part to standardize and minimize risk for municipal Solid Waste landfills such as the Vernon County landfill. There is no data from existing subtitle D landfills in Wisconsin, many of which have been operating for about 30 years, that these liners are starting to fail. Subtitle D landfills have a leachate collection system that actively removes liquid from the base of the landfill, and a gas extraction system actively removes landfill gas from the landfill. Landfills are designed with redundant systems and protections in place. The concerns raised in the department’s incompleteness letter deals with one specific layer of protection, the geological environment, but not the whole landfill design. Groundwater samples are collected twice per year from the landfill, and evidence of a release from the landfill has not been identified. Concerns raised in the department’s incompleteness letter regarding the proposed expansion should not be interpreted to mean that a release has occurred or will occur.” Mark Peters. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“I am getting a lot of calls and a lot of concern,” said Sanborn. “And I can completely understand this concern. I’m asking for this committee to give me the graces. I want to write an article for the paper, for our Facebook page all of the things at that landfill that we do out there to help mitigate this risk that we’re talking about. We haul an average two and a half million gallons of leachate out of that landfill a year to help mitigate, if there’s no water there’s nothing to leak right? That were sampled twice a year. All the monitoring wells (25). I kind of want to just educate the public as to how it’s not just a hole in the ground. It’s not like it used to be.”

Supervisor Paul Wilson said the DNR should be answering the public’s questions and not Sanborn.

County Board Supervisor and Infrastructure Committee Member Paul Wilson

“The hundreds of thousands of dollars that we pay to the DNR and to these Engineers,” said Wilson. “Their information is, we’re supposed to trust the engineers in DNR, the Public’s going to listen to that more than you. You’re already at odds at the public. We’re paying all this money to the DNR, and to these engineering firms, they need to answer the questions satisfactorily to the public. We paid money trusting these people, I’m sick of hearing about it. You can write whatever you want, all you’re doing is going in circles. We paid these people. That Mark Peters, whatever he’s got going on. With Lukens (Tom) and Kelvin (Rodolfo), they should be talking to us before they talk to…. We paid them. We had questions. Get outside activists creating issues. They need to answer this. We paid them the money trusting their engineering. We need to hear from them.”

“So are you asking that the engineering firm (SEH) put out something?” asked Sanborn.

“He’ll stand up here and you say, so, is there anything,” said Wilson. “Oh no, our engineering shows that there isn’t, okay, well they need to, the money that we pay these places, especially the DNR, whatever Pete’s letter there is, that had facts stated, if he needs to elaborate a little bit. It just, this seems dumb that the individual is going to plead with the public to try to straighten something out. We pay thousands of dollars to these people for these reasons. They need to back up what we paid for.”

“The two people that are spearheading this know what you do out there,” said Supervisor Jacobson.

“But the general public…,” said Sanborn.

“No no no,” said Jacobson. “No, don’t go there. Those are the two people that are spearheading it. They know what you’re doing already, and are bypassing all that. So that’s where I agree with him (Wilson) that your response isn’t going to matter, because those two know what you’re doing and they’re still saying it’s not enough. And they’re still bringing up facts that aren’t matched. So it needs to be something from the outside.”

“Questioning the testing of the wells and stuff like that,” said Wilson. “Where’s the document that says we tested 15 wells in June. We test them, here, where’s the dates? And back that up. These guys say the wells aren’t being tested. Well, we’re paying an engineer for them and we’re paying the DNR so where’s that info? Get that out where they can see it, otherwise they’re arguing with you and it goes in circles.”

County Board Supervisor and Infrastructure Committee Member Charles Jacobson

Sanborn said that information is all available in the feasibility study that is posted on the county website.

County resident Tom Lukens who has been one of the leading critics of the landfill interrupted the meeting via zoom.

“The incompleteness determination letter spells out exactly what you guys are talking about,” said Lukens. “They talk about the geology, the wells, why there’s a specific problem. You guys aren’t paying attention to what you got from the DNR.”

Sanborn then read another email she received from DNR Hydrologist Joe Lourigan.

“One additional note worth mentioning is that Wisconsin’s required minimum liner design exceed the minimum design requirements under subtitle D.  Wisconsin rules require at least 4 feet of compacted clay underlain by a 60 mil thick HDPE geomembrane; whereas the federal subtitle D requirements are for a 2 foot thick clay layer underneath a geomembrane.”

Goede said he was frustrated because people call wondering what is happening when they read things that make it sound as if the landfill is failing or will fail and the only way to get all the fact is to read the whole feasibility study.

Supervisor Mary Henry expressed her frustration that the DNR letter was released through an open records request before the county board members could even see it. Henry also reminded the committee that Sanborn has stated many times there will be things the DNR will request in the process. Henry asked who made the open records request.

“When you just cherry pick … certain things out of that report without going deeper to find out more about it,” said Henry. “And you explode that out in the public, that’s where we are. And I find it very disheartening because there’s a lot of money at stake here with GFL, and they wanting the rights of everybody in this area to haul garbage, and then to squish out all the other people. That’s what I have a problem with. So please tell me who requested and who that is, because I think the public needs to know that too. If we want to be transparent, let’s be transparent because all of this is public record.”

County Board Supervisor Mary Henry

Sanborn explained that the letter of incompleteness was released to members of the public before their engineering firm received it. Sanborn said she also asked the DNR who made the open records request and was told the only request they received was from Attorney Timm Speerschneider who is the same attorney that sent letters to the county earlier in year on behalf of GFL. Sanborn went on to explain that there was additional delay in the engineer getting the letter because it was sent to a different person at SEH with the same last name by mistake.

“We’ve been just behind the eight-ball ever since it came out,” said Sanborn. “Because now it’s been spread to the board, to the public. And you know we’ve had board meetings, Brian Kent (SEH) has come, he’s talked about this. We warned that we would get a notice of incompletion. There would be additional request from the DNR. We warned of that when we spoke at the county board meeting. So now it’s just being spread around the the world that all of this stuff is going to happen and their scaring residents that we’re going to contaminate the groundwater. And I don’t think people realize the amount of stuff that goes into operating that landfill out there that is all part of protecting the groundwater.”

Sanborn said the the she and the engineers would be sitting with the DNR on January 19 to discuss the letter and try to answer their questions, and make a presentation on where things stand at the county board meeting in February. We reached out to Sanborn about what the DNR was requesting, and if there was any indication of how much of a delay there would be in the process to get the DNR the required information. Sanborn responded that after the Jan. 19 meeting they did get responses from the DNR that said the county “will need to do some additional investigation on the ground water network to ensure we are able to properly monitor it.”

Below are additional comments from the DNR about the information they are requesting to complete their review.

Concerns about outside county waste coming to Vernon County

Sanborn has addressed the issue of Vernon County taking in waste from outside the county. Historically, when Vernon County was using flow control to get haulers to only bring Vernon County waste to the Vernon County facility there was some wiggle room with haulers since some waste hauling routes cross county boundaries, and some haulers would bring a load that had crossed county lines. But haulers would also take loads from Vernon County to one of the surrounding counties because it was closer to that particular route. But all in all the volumes evened out and the Vernon County waste went to the Vernon County facility, and volumes have been in the 15,000 to 20,000 tons per year.

Once the county ended flow control it was nearly impossible to control where waste was coming from . Now that the county’s largest hauler is using its transfer station those volumes will likely not come to Vernon County. Sanborn has reiterated to her committee and the board of supervisors it has never been the goal to take outside waste, but the county does need a certain amount of waster to operate.

An exchange between Sanborn and Supervisor Jacobson highlight the issue at the January Infrastructure Committee meeting. Sanborn said the community of Cashton has approached her about bring their waste to the Vernon County facility because the Monroe County landfill just raised their tipping fee to $67 a ton.

Jacobson said some of the concern raised by citizens is about bringing in outside waste.

“We’re allowing a lot of our own garbage to leave,” said Sanborn. “So in order to make all these recycling programs and all these demands, we have to have some sort of revenue source. And if we are going to allow our revenue source to go out the door, then we are going to have to make up the difference. Its not like we’re taking extra garbage. We have been at about 20,000 ton for the last five years. I’m not looking to go beyond the 20,000 tons, but we’re allowing what we are getting to leave.”

“How are we allowing it to leave?” asked Jacobson.

“Because we have a hauler operating in our county that is taking everything they pickup in our area to another landfill,” said Sanborn.

Sanborn reiterated any outside waste would only be allowed if it replaced volumes lost from their own footprint.

The Vernon County Infrastructure Committee will meet on Tuesday, February 13 and the Vernon County Supervisors will meet on Thursday, February 15 where the board will here an update on the Vernon County Landfill expansion.

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Tim Hundt

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  • Tim’s avoids mention of the very real geological problems with the landfill site and its serious threat to our groundwater aquifers. Keep alert for other sources of information about the landfill; there’s more out there…

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