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Error forces Bedford County leaders to consider landfill options sooner than expected

(WDBJ)
Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 4:37 PM EST
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Trucks are actively dumping trash inside the only open cell at the Bedford County landfill, but they won't be dropping off waste there much longer.

"We will run out of space in our existing cell within the next year to year and a half," said Bedford County Administrator Robert Hiss.

The problem was only discovered about nine months ago. Until then, county staff was under the impression their landfill would last another five or six years, based on data from an engineering firm.

"It ended up that those calculations were done in error," Hiss told WDBJ7 Tuesday.

The landfill will be full years before a new cell can be constructed. For that reason, county leaders will have to pay to send their trash elsewhere. They're in discussions with Republic Services regarding the possibility of sending Bedford County trash to a landfill more than two hours away in Brunswick County. Talks are also underway with Pittsylvania County leaders about sending garbage to that locality as well.

Longer term, the county will have to decide whether to expand the landfill, close the landfill permanently and continue sending garbage to another location, or develop a hybrid operation that would keep some trash in the landfill and send the rest elsewhere.

Hiss said Bedford County Supervisors are considering those options, with an emphasis on pursuing "the most cost-effective way, so that it's not so burdensome on the county budget and the taxpayers."

At a work session Monday night, engineers laid out projected expenses for the three options under consideration. Expanding the landfill is projected to cost around $175 million over the next 35 years. Transferring trash to another landfill during the same time period would cost $173 million. A combination of both would cost $226 million.

"We're being very cautious as to making sure that our tax dollars are being used wisely, in terms of where the solid waste ultimately ends up going," Hiss said of the supervisor's discussions.

County supervisors will decide how to proceed as they develop their 2021 budget this spring.

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