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Dickinson resident Mike Wolf looks over his land May 9. Trash from the Dickinson landfill, shown in the background, has blown onto his land, preventing him from cutting for hay and allowing his cattle to graze it.

Trashy situation on land near landfill

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The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

The last two years have been trashy for Dickinson resident Mike Wolf. While city officials took steps this week to keep his land clean, Wolf has his doubts.

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"When it gets too bad, you got to say something," he said. "It was way too bad last year. Now we have a problem out here that is going to take some time to straighten out because that garbage is still in these fields out here."

Dickinson city staff completed a fence Thursday on the east side of the landfill that would help keep garbage from blowing onto Wolf's land, said Steven Tollitson, assistant director of the North Dakota Department of Health Division of Waste Management. Tollitson met with city officials Thursday to discuss issues regarding the Dickinson landfill.

Trash from the landfill has found its way to Wolf's land since 1986, he said. Wolf showed The Dickinson Press recommendations from the health department suggesting fences be put up in 1994 and 1995.

"We would get visitors from out of state and they would say, 'Boy, you guys don't have to put up with this,'" Wolf said. "You get 'Hustler' magazine pages and all kinds of stuff. Anything can blow out of there."

A fence was put up, City Engineer Shawn Soehren said, but it has received damage over the years and the landfill was moved.

Wolf has not been able to cut the grass for hay or graze cattle on the land for fear his cattle will swallow the trash.

"They'll eat it and they'll die," Tollitson said. "I remember (Wolf) lost some livestock on that years ago."

State Rep. Shirley Meyer has been out on Wolf's land to help clean up the trash.

"This is too bad," she said. "This would take a lot of time every day."

Tollitson also visited Wolf's land and picked up trash on his land, including a frack bag and plastic sheeting.

An oil boom in western North Dakota has brought more people and waste to the area, bringing more challenges to cities, the assistant director said.

"The landfills are kind of caught," Tollitson said. "They've got their staffing challenges and the guys that can run heavy equipment are paid more at other places."

Some of the trash oil field companies produce, such as plastic bags, paper and chemicals, shouldn't go into the landfill, he added. The health department revised its guidelines for landfill disposal in April in response to the increase of wastes in Dickinson and Williston. Tollitson also gave Dickinson Solid Waste Manager Aaron Praus a list of what inert wastes are allowed.

City officials closed the landfill to oil field related trash Wednesday, Soehren said. The city has also hired the Dakota Women's Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in New England to pick up trash.

"Obviously 60 mph winds have been a problem," Soehren said. Additional trash from construction and oil field companies has contributed to the problem.

Soehren believes the fence will prevent the trash from blowing onto Wolf's land, adding "we wouldn't put it up if we didn't think it wasn't going to help us."

Tollitson said the fence won't catch everything, but it should help. The city may need to look at planting trees as a buffer.

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