What's New with Solid Waste Management?
Developing a San Luis Valley Regional Waste Diversion Plan
Good news! SLVEC has received an RREO grant to develop a Regional Solid Waste Management and Recycling Plan for the SLV. This is to compliment a grant received by Conejos Clean Water (CCW), which is a two year grant for developing a similar plan. Solid Waste Management is morphing from illegal dumping emphasis to developing a hub and spoke network for solid waste and recycling to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill. Removing recyclables and compost will reduce the amount of emissions that cause Greenhouse Gasses (GHG), which contribute to climate change, as well as satisfy the requirements set forth by the CDPHE regarding solid waste and recycling on the State level. 12-2-16
The first step to beginning the SLV Regional Waste Diversion Plan is to assemble a Task Force of solid waste experts, who will held undertake baseline studies to determine what services and infrastructure are already in place to deal with waste diversion, and a gap analysis to see what is still needed to improve the situation. They will also oversee waste audits to determine how many recyclables are being thrown away instead of being recycled. This will require us getting our hands dirty! Several volunteers, over the course of two days, will sort through several loads of municipal solid waste at the landfill and catagorize the trash items we find. In the end, they will be weighed and we will discover the percentages of recyclables and food waste in the current waste stream. With the help of our project consultant and waste management expert, we will then extrapolate this number towards the future and compare it to changes we can make that will help divert the recyclables and food waste. In the end we hope to come up with three major options to pursue for change to the current system. SLVEC is currently pursuing a second grant, from the USDA, Solid Waste Management 3, which will allow the Ecosystem Council to assist waste management entities (landfills, trash haulers) with writing grants for funding to implement the projects set forth by the SLV Regional Waste Diversion Plan. Currently, SLVEC and CCW is assembling this Waste Diversion Task Force, and hope to have our first meeting in March. Throughout the process, stakeholders and the public are encouraged to keep informed through regular meetings. Stay tuned. 1-25-17
The Waste Diversion Project (as it has been coined) is proceeding as planned, and the Task Force as well as staff have completed the Baseline Data and well as the Waste Audit (see photos below). The Baseline Data showed that the current rate of recycling in the Valley is 18%, and the Waste Audit showed that 65% of landfilled waste could have been recycled or composted!Next will be our Stakeholder Meetings, to be held June 27 & 28th! This will be your chance to provide input as to how we will proceed with our improvements. What infrastructure, policy, or programs would improve the rate of waste diversion in the Valley? Please join us at one of three meetings:
Tuesday, June 27th
San Luis at the Public Health Conference Room from 5:30 - 7:30 pm
Wednesday, June 28th
Alamosa at the SLV Water Conservancy Board Room from 2:00 - 4:00 pm
Del Norte at the Rio Grande County Annex Board Room from 6:00 - 8:00 pm.
After our Gap Analysis (using the Baseline Data and Waste Audit Data to extrapolate where we are vs. where we want to be in ten years with our waste diversion goals), these improvements will be ranked, and the top three chosen to be part of the Plan.
Volunteers sort trash into 28 different bins Weights are recorded on a digital spreadsheet
“Water Tower Cleanup Attracts Volunteers, Demonstrates Community Resolve and Cooperation”
Thanks to a neatly organized team of community organizers, landowners, government leaders, and community members of all sorts and ages who donated their time on Saturday, August 13, the abused and trashy section of lands marking the southwest edge of Alamosa will see a significant portion of the unsightly dump piles accumulated over decades of neglect cleared out by the sweat and hard work of this small army of volunteers.
The cleanup effort was initiated as part of a USDA Rural Utilities Solid Waste Management Grant to the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council to address random dumping, waste transfer, and other problems in Alamosa and Saguache counties, with the area chosen as a highly visible place to demonstrate what can be accomplished with community resolve and all parties cooperating.
Billed as the “Adams State” Water Tower Trash Cleanup, the mix of volunteers and experienced equipment operators led by the Ecosystem’s Project Coordinator Kristina Crowder managed to gather up and fill three roll-offs with 7.5 tons of all types of discarded material destined for final disposal at the Regional Landfill west of Monte Vista.
Scattered over some 70 acres extending from the elementary school to the water tower on south Craft, trash included glass, plastics, metal, car parts, construction waste, paper, clothing, styrofoam, wood, rugs, couches, furniture, mattresses and just about any other unwanted item you can think of.
A total of 84 tires were also rounded up and hauled off to the nearby Ace In Your Pocket baling yards free of charge with disposal status recorded by Alamosa County’s Lynnea Rappold, SLV’s Environmental Health Director. A week before the cleanup John Manesiotis and Kyle Williams of WSB eRecyclers scouted the site and picked up 900 pounds of electronics valued at 50 cents per pound and processed at no charge.
About 25 persons in all participated, although more would have been appreciated for the extreme size and challenges of the area. Adding youthful energy to the group were Alamosa High School freshman Inez Herrera, Ortega Middle School seventh grader Damian Orozco, and Boy Scout William Krebs. Organizers were delighted to see youth representation at the cleanup in order for them to see first-hand the mess created by uncontrolled disposal behavior, and the educational imperative of leaving a clean and uncluttered environment for future generations.
Ecosystem Director Christine Canaly and Project Developer John Stump thanked the group for their participation, and the roles each person played in making the cleanup a success. The cleanup team also welcomed Ecosystem board members Beth Kinney and Joel Kaufman.
Della Vieira, Alamosa County Health Department Director, expressed safety concerns, particularly in the event any needles were uncovered in the trash. Canaly also thanked the Sheriff’s office for assigning a Deputy to the event.
None of this work could have been done without backhoe equipment and operator time donated to the project, and special recognition was given to Albert Griego of the County Road & Bridge Department, landowner Troy Duran of Dell’s Insurance, and landowner, rancher, and businessman LeRoy Martinez. Also pitching in from Alamosa County was Commissioner Helen Sigmond, and Charlie Griego represented the residents of his ward and the City of Alamosa.
Recognition also followed for Steve and Lisa Atencio; Brian Underwood, whose tent skills proved indispensable; David Topolewski, Conejos District Forest Service; and citizens Margie Clemmer, Gwendolyn Bauer, Lorraine Garcia, Paul Patterson and Dodie Day.
Roll-offs were provided by Alamosa Public Works Department Director, Pat Steenburg, using a “free day” for tipping fees at the landfill. Trinity Lutheran Church supplied table and chairs. Other suppliers making this possible at no cost included WSB eRecyclers; ASU Facilities; Alamosa Parks and Recreation; SLV Public Health; Mondragon’s Portable Toilets; Domino’s Pizza; City Market; and Safeway.
The area will continue to be monitored for dumping activity, and landowner Martinez plans to install signage and erect barriers to keep dumpers out. Residents near the area need to stay vigilant and report any suspicious illegal dumping activity to the Alamosa County Sheriff’s office. Look for vehicle descriptions and license plates. This is a public health risk that all citizens need to be concerned about. Illegal dumping attracts vermin that carry diseases and subject nearby neighborhoods to a greater risk of contact. USDA is an equal opportunity employer.
Before and after the Clean-up.
Volunteers load the front loader. with assorted garbage.
Damian Orozco & Inez Herrera represented the youth demographic.
For more information, contact:
Illegal dumping and improper disposal of solid waste has been a commonly recognized problem in the San Luis Valley.
but the residents of Conejos and Costilla counties are getting more support to encourage the use of existing waste services and look towards increasing waste transfer options from two of the Valley’s leading environmental non-profits. The San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC) and Conejos County Clean Water (CCCW), noted for their work on environmental health issues, are partnering with grants from the USDA Rural Utility Service and Environmental Protection Agency. One of many goals is to combine the clean-up efforts with programs to educate the public on the benefits of good waste disposal practices, and the dangers to water, wildlife, and humans of leaving the trash eyesores unattended.
Community and Youth Groups Clean-Up Illegal Dump Site Next to the Culebra Ditch in Costilla County (7-28-2015)
The Clean-up Team Strikes a Pose
On Thursday, July 23, members of the Move Mountains Youth Group, San Luis Youth Conservation Camp, Costilla County personnel, commercial trash operators, local citizen volunteers, and others providing logistical support joined forces to clean up the “mountains” of illegal waste accumulated over decades of neglect along Culebra Creek near San Acacio Viejo west of San Luis.
Demonstrating a cleanup of unprecedented scale involving over 50 persons and coordinated by the Conejos Clean Water (CCW) and San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC) nonprofits, the combination of Centennial School students and county/private sector leadership succeeded in filling up three 30-yard roll-offs donated by GT Services and Silver Mountain Disposal.
In high spirits and eager to tackle these veritable mountains of trash, Move Mountain students were equipped
with bright orange gift bags filled with water bottles, T-shirts, and other items supplied by the county, and snacks, gloves, and trash bags donated by the Town of San Luis. First-aid supplies and a cooler with sodas and gator-aid were also on hand at a make-shift command center shaded by a few canopies.
As the crowd of participants and caravan of cars, buses, and trucks gathered, project coordinator for the nonprofit team Michael Armenta outlined the various roles and procedures for the day. Key staff, officials, and event organizers working alongside students at the cleanup included Costilla County commissioners Joe Gallegos and Dolores Burns; Ben Doon, county administrator; Vivian Gallegos, county Public Health Director; Shirley Romero of Move Mountains; Andrea Guajardo of CCW; and SLVEC’s director Christine Canaly and project developer John Stump.
Federal sources giving rise to the event included a USDA Solid Waste Management Rural Utility Service Grant to
the SLV Ecosystem Council (an Equal Opportunity Provider); and a Community Problem Solving Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to Conejos Clean Water.
The negative visual impact from so much trash is only part of the problem, and the threat of toxic chemicals leaching into the creek waters from storm and snowmelt runoff poses an even greater impact to wildlife, fish, and human health. This includes dioxins from burn barrels, and cadmium contamination from the metals in computers, TVs, batteries, and other electronics.
Standing next to the willow-lined, sage-scented creek channel, Move Mountains inspirational group leader Shirley Romero relayed her water concerns to students --- “Water is life, and clean water is what we all depend on for drinking, cooking, washing, and farming. People need to be aware that we are being forced to clean up someone else’s mess, and we will not tolerate contamination of our water from illegal waste dumping.” Judging by the expressions of disgust as theydelved through the debris, these children were taking this message to heart.
Cleanup strategies required the Move Mountains and Youth Conservation groups to work separate portions of the mile-long waste corridor, with backhoe operators Steve Cordova of Silver Mountain and Leroy Medina, Costilla County’s Road & Bridge supervisor, clearing the way with scoopfuls of trash loaded into roll-offs. This was followed by the army of students and volunteers who concentrated their efforts from one trash pile to another, and meticulously gathered the rest by hand.
Despite the intense heat, students and adults worked hard beginning at 10:00 am and worked until 2:00 pm. A lunch break with sandwiches and watermelon donated by the Sangre de Cristo Knights of Columbus and served by the Maldonado’s, refreshed the crews for the afternoon drive until all three roll-offs were filled up.
The teamwork and organization displayed at the Culebra Creek cleanup produced a staggering 90 cubic yards of waste material of all imaginable types and form including discarded household goods, plastic and glass containers, sheet glass, wood and yard waste, metal objects, rugs, toys, wire, and even some disintegrating couches and mattresses. With the exception of tires loaded into separate trucks and some illegally dumped appliances and electronics, all of this was hauled off to the Valley’s regional landfill in Rio Grande County.
Organizers estimate that about 80% of the waste at the Culebra site running between county roads 15 and 16 was removed, which leaves the remaining cleanup work seem less formidable. Due to deterioration over many years, no value was left for any recyclable materials in the waste mix, but recycling from the on-going waste stream remains as a goal for the county. It should also be noted that Costilla County has been assisting with several cleanups at other sites, including the one recently accomplished at the El Rito cemetery.
Engineering analysis and studied observation at the Culebra site and others indicates a relatively small number of persons are actually creating the illegal dumping problem, which may save them the cost of a $20/month trash collection fee or periodic hauls to transfer stations and landfill, but is costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars to clean up. Residents are encouraged to report illegal dumping to the county at 719.937.7668 ext 4.
The Culebra Ditch adjacent to the illegal dump site, now cleaned-up, will have fewer contaminants now.
SOLID WASTE MANGEMENT OPTIONS PRESENTED to COSTILLA andCONEJOS COUNTY
JOINT EFFORT with SAN LUIS VALLEY ECOSYSTEM COUNCIL, CONEJOS COUNTY CLEAN WATER, and U.S DEPARTMENT
of AGRICULTURE RURAL UTILITY SERVICE and the ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ( 3-31-2015)
Illegal dumping and improper disposal of solid waste has been a commonly recognized problem in the San Luis Valley, but the residents of Conejos and Costilla counties are getting more support to encourage the use of existing waste services and look towards increasing waste transfer options from two of the Valley’s leading environmental non-profits. The San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC) and Conejos County Clean Water (CCCW), noted for their work on environmental health issues, are partnering with grants from the USDA Rural Utility Service and Environmental Protection Agency. One of many goals is to combine the clean up efforts with programs to educate the public on the benefits of good waste disposal practices, and the dangers to water, wildlife, and humans of leaving the trash eyesores unattended.
The team funded by the two agencies—which includes a coordinator, consulting engineer, and support staff—has already made progress by mapping and photographing illegal dump sites in both counties and identifying the quantities and contents of the materials scattered indiscriminately over the landscape. Many sites are near aquifers in danger of leaching into streams and groundwater sources. Dump components range from biodegradable yard waste and household trash, to highly toxic electronics such as TVs and computer monitors.
Plans are also underway to identify items that could be recycled and never discarded in the first place, such as electronics, cardboard, glass, metal containers, and a range of plastics and paper material. Special attention is needed to handle larger items such as sofas. More on this will be covered in future articles.
“Some illegal dumpsites are costing taxpayers about $20,000 a year to clean up,” asserts Michael Armenta, CCCW project coordinator, who grew up in Manassa and holds a master’s degree from the University of Denver. “By focusing on larger coordination efforts, many of these items could be recycled and reused to provide further opportunities for small business.”
Armenta also praised the responses by the counties and local governments, land use and code enforcement personnel, small business leaders, the Bureau of Land Management, and other community stakeholders who are supporting efforts by loaning equipment and labor, holding town meetings, or helping out in other ways. The Regional Landfill administration and commercial waste-haulers have also provided letters of support for the project along with other assistance.
Schools are also responding to the project with high enthusiasm, which fits within their science curriculums and opportunity for students to learn about the ongoing waste stream and responsible citizen behavior. Conejos County Schools are planning light clean ups in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations in early summer, and the project will also be conducting an extensive clean up demonstration in Costilla county in early fall.
Added to the demands for clean up are various private property owners who have been victimized by the task of having to clean up illegal dumping on their own property by others whose behavior normalizes criminal acts. Armenta is working with the Attorney General’s office and law enforcement officers to encourage more enforcement of dumping regulations, and requested that information on illegal dumping activities be reported to local authorities and the project team.
“We all want a solution,” Armenta said. “County officials want this problem solved, and taxpayers don’t want to continue paying for those who insist on dumping their trash illegally.”
He added that the SLVEC and CCCW will continue to update the public about the project progress and upcoming events through meetings and forums for discussion and problem solving. Volunteer opportunities in the clean up and education process include participating in stakeholder meetings, receiving e-mail alerts and donating time.