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Officials say Fargo landfill has 11 years left

FARGO -- Officials in Fargo estimate that the city's landfill has only 11 years left.

The Fargo landfill brings in the most trash on a daily basis among the state's 13 municipal waste landfills, said Scott Radig, the North Dakota Department of Health waste management director.

When the current Fargo landfill opened in 1990, it received an estimated 110,000 tons of trash a year. It has steadily increased over the years, taking in more than 201,000 tons of trash last year, or about 550 tons a day.

"Fargo has had a lot of population growth, so that has shortened up (the landfill's) lifespan," Radig said.

The 115 acres used for garbage are separated into 17 cells of various sizes. Ten of those cells are 93 percent full or more. And of those 10, five are 100 percent full.

Dozens of scavenging birds can be seen circling the scraps atop one the massive six-story garbage piles.

Paul Hanson, the landfill's supervisor, said that on a clear day one can see for miles from atop the highest peak overlooking 12th Avenue North.

"I think this is the highest point in eastern North Dakota," he said with a laugh.

City policy allows 33 percent of the trash intake to come from outside of Fargo, and it's pretty close to that cap, said Terry Ludlum, the city's solid waste utility director. Fargo accepts trash from West Fargo, rural Cass County, Casselton, N.D., Valley City, N.D., and Becker County, Minn.

Having so many other cities contributing to the region's largest landfill certainly shortens its life, Radig said.

The 107-acre Clay County landfill just south of Hawley, Minn., has about 56 years of life left. It only accepts garbage from within the county. Unlike Fargo, Clay County's landfill takes in significantly less garbage per day -- about 70 tons -- and can stack its garbage higher.