GarCo wary of accepting pit liners at landfill

Garfield County officials want to hear more from the oil and gas industry before spending millions of dollars so its landfill can accept well-pad pit liners.

The county is looking at a price tag of nearly $2 million to build a landfill cell capable of accepting the liners, which can be fouled by oil and gas contaminants. New state rules generally require that the liners be removed when a pit is closed rather than being buried on site. But they currently must be shipped outside the county for disposal.

County manager Ed Green said the landfill cell would cost about four times as much as a normal cell because it would need to have a liner with leak-detection equipment beneath it and at liner seams. It’s also possible the liners could be characterized as hazardous waste, which would trigger state and federal rules and add to costs.

Garfield is the state’s most active county for drilling, and Green said a local disposal site can be an attractive option to help companies comply with the law.

County staff targeted $1,000 as a presumably palatable price to charge companies to accept and bundle a liner at the landfill. However, it’s been projected that the cost to the county could be $1,750 per liner, including cell construction and operation costs.

At a meeting Tuesday, county commissioners expressed discomfort with the possible expense involved. Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who also is a member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which implemented the new pit liner rule, questioned the idea of asking taxpayers to subsidize drilling expenses.

“There’s a cost of doing business and a cost of protecting the environment,” she said.

County commissioners said the county will need to meet with industry representatives before further considering pit liner disposal. One question is just how many liners might need to be disposed of in coming years. County oil and gas liaison Judy Jordan said there are about 2,000 well pads in the county and that there might be one liner per pad on average.

Jordan said some “entrepreneurial options” also might be in the works in that a few companies are exploring the possibility of recycling liners.

County officials also voiced fears that a lot of money could be spent on dealing with liners without addressing the potentially bigger problem of oil and gas sludge that can be left behind in pits. The state lets companies mix that sludge with surrounding soil as long as contaminant concentrations don’t exceed certain levels, but Jordan said the state generally only checks for compliance with contaminant standards when it receives a complaint.


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