Dickinson works to be green

The Dickinson Fire Department will be putting on the annual Spring Clean Up April 28 through May 13, a week after Earth Day, to benefit the community.

Recycling could extend the life of Dickinson's landfill, which is costly to expand. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press
Recycling could extend the life of Dickinson's landfill, which is costly to expand. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press

The Dickinson Fire Department will be putting on the annual Spring Clean Up April 28 through May 13, a week after Earth Day, to benefit the community.

There has been a constant increase in volunteers participating the past few years, especially with the increase in oil activity bringing people from all over the nation to the Dickinson area.

With a diversified population in the region, there have also been more demands placed on the city - namely, recycling. People who came from larger cities may have had recycling programs and wonder why Dickinson does not, said Public Works Director Gary Zuroff.

But cost is a primary concern.

The city is looking into a single-stream, co-mingled, curbside recycling program. The city commission denied the last company that offered the service, noting that they were hoping it would cost residents closer to $5-$6 a month, as opposed to the proposed $9. Solid Waste Manager Aaron Praus said he sent out another request for proposal (RFP) more than a week ago but has not received anything yet. Three companies have showed interest in providing the service, though nothing has been submitted. The RFP closes May 10, at which point the city will organize a committee to decide which route to take.


"It's a difficult market to be playing with, but we're still trying," Praus said.

Transportation is one of the biggest difficulties when it comes to recycling, he said. The city hauls cardboard and paper to Minneapolis to be disposed of, a 600-mile drive. This feat can be even more taxing when the transportation costs are high and the product is not very valuable, Zuroff said. Currently, cardboard earns about $180 per ton, but last fall the product generated only about $25-$35 a ton, Praus said, noting the volatile recycling market. Cardboard also loses value when it is stored because of moisture and potential contamination.

Meanwhile, the city's 80 acre-landfill, which services both Dickinson and the greater southwest portion of the state, charges $44 a ton for other localities to dump their trash. Praus said he has seen rates from $65-$195 a ton to recycle, excluding the transportation cost required as well.

"It's the right thing to do ... but how many dollars is the right thing to do?" Zuroff said. "You still have a carbon footprint because you're still hauling it, you're still doing all that. It's costly."

However, recycling would help expand the life of the landfill, which Praus projects will last more than 20 years. Digging an additional cell to create more space is a costly venture - Dickinson spent $2 million building a new cell last fall, Zuroff said. This high cost is also why many smaller communities dump their garbage here rather than build their own facilities.

A city focus

However, environmental concerns factor into most everything the city's Public Works Department does.

In addition to their help in the Spring Clean Up, the department also hosts training sessions for contractors to eliminate runoff from construction sites to avoid contaminating nearby creeks and rivers. Dickinson switched to primarily using brine to melt snow and ice off the roads in the winter. The salt in brine is diluted when the snow melts to the point where it no longer poses a threat to the environment, Praus said. It can serve as an alternative to sand, which can pile up inches deep over the winter and pose problems in the waterways.


Praus also contracts with the Dakota Women's Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in order to clean up garbage that may blow out of the landfill, despite fencing to catch it. His crew is out after every major wind storm picking up trash that may have blown onto neighboring properties.

"It's something year-round, it's not just a one-time cleanup for our department. We do it year-round," Zuroff said. "... All of Public Works basically is working on environmental issues."

The city has seen an increase in environmental restrictions from the federal government and Environmental Protection Agency, but being eco-friendly is also a priority for Dickinson, said City Administrator Shawn Kessel.

"Sometimes those issues are things of compliance, the regulation that's been placed upon us, and other times it's of our own volition," Kessel said. "In the interest of running a good operation, we always try to do that in the most effective and efficient manner. So when we take that kind of a stance, that generally means we're in compliance anyways because we try to exceed legislative mandates."

Being environmentally conscious in city operations is oftentimes in the best interest of the citizens as well as the environment, he said.

"As long as it doesn't exceed a cost-benefit ratio that's exorbitant, then I think it's in everyone's best interest that we try to preserve Mother Earth for the next generation as best we possibly can," Kessel said.

To get involved picking up trash during the Spring Clean Up, contact the Dickinson Fire Department at 701-456-7625.


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