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Dickinson landfill has 25 years left, even with growth, officials expect long life of old strip mine

Press Photo by Sean M. Soehren City of Dickinson employee Brittany Pelling hoists a bundle of garbage with an overhead crane during the North Dakota Solid Waste & Recycling Association tour of the Baler Building in Dickinson on Tuesday afternoon.1 / 2
Press Photo by Sean M. Soehren Heavy equipment moves trash at the Dickinson landfill on Tuesday afternoon. Trash is expected to double in the next seven years, but the landfill isn't expected to fill up for 25 years.2 / 2

With population and development growth, Dickinson is going to see more trash, but officials said during a facilities tour Tuesday that the landfill is not expected to fill up for over 25 years.

About 20 representatives from agencies around the state toured Dickinson's Solid Waste baler

building and landfill as part of the North Dakota Solid Waste & Recycling Association's 16th annual


The baler building operation compacts about 110 tons of trash per day to make about 100 bales, Dickinson Solid Waste Manager Aaron Praus said during the tour.

Three employees were working the compactor and waste bales were moved from a conveyor belt to a transportation bin by the use of an overhead crane.

The city started using the bale system in 1991 and was relocated in 2002, Praus said. In 2009 there was a significant fire and the building had to be rebuilt, which cost about $1 million, he said.

The amount of waste is expected to increase 10 percent each year for the next five years, Praus said. The Solid Waste Department has 16 employees, but will likely have to expand in the coming years, he added.

"With the waste levels on the rise, we are going to eventually add staffing," he said. "We are seeing a great increase in volume."

The waste bales are hauled to the landfill, which was an abandoned strip coal mining site that was dug down about 100 feet.

"It is a good site here, but it just needs to be managed," Wenck

Associates Inc. Representative Howard Trussel said. Fargo-based Wenck was contracted to update the landfill design and has been working since May, he said.

The Dickinson landfill is the dump spot for 23 communities and surrounding areas ranging as far north as Killdeer, south to Mott, west past Medora and east to Glen Ullin, Praus said.

The amount of waste in the landfill is expected to double in the next 7 years and be at capacity in 25 to 27 years, Wenck Project Engineer Marlon Mackowick said.

The old mine pit is an ideal location because it is out of the wind, which reduces blowing waste to nearby areas, Mackowick said.

Diana Trussel, a solid waste environmental engineer with the North Dakota Department of Health, said there are 13 permitted municipal solid waste landfills in the state. She said the increase in trash should be manageable.

"They are aware of it, so they just need to stay in compliance," she said. "It is not something that is going to happen overnight."

Jamestown Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf said Dickinson was lucky to have the facilities it does. He said the overhead crane system in the baler building improves safety and efficiency and having an old strip mining location for a landfill is perfect.

He said the symposium is a good way to share ideas on ways to improve waste management.

"What is critical, sometimes if you get pride out of the way and share what has worked and what hasn't worked, ultimately we can save a lot of taxes," he said. "I have already gotten a couple ideas today."