Expanding vertically: Dickinson officials work to address landfill capacity issues

The city of Dickinson highlighted concerns with a landfill reaching capacity and the need to grow vertically. The hot-button issue of eminent domain has some worried that the city will exercise their authority to grab private property in the expansion efforts.

The City of Dickinson looks to expand its landfill site (pictured above) vertically to incorporate additional space and save costs as opposed to creating a new landfill. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

With a surpassed life expectancy, the city is currently working on plans that would vertically expand the Dickinson landfill as opposed to developing a new landfill site.

Moving a landfill to another location could cost more than $10 million at each site that the city has looked at, Public Works Director Gary Zuroff noted at a previous public hearing.

“Creating a new landfill is extremely expensive and extremely difficult, because .... (you need) the perfect location with hydrology and soils. Plus, nobody wants a landfill in their backyard,” Zuroff said. “Moving a landfill is very expensive. Some places that have tried to get a new permit for a landfill in North Dakota have taken eight to 10 years to get it approved. So it's always easier to expand at your current site either horizontal or vertical than to look at a new location of a landfill.”

Houston Engineering Inc. is preparing the major permit modification documentation required by the North Dakota Department of Environmental Equality. In June, the Dickinson City Commission approved the task order for landfill modification and vertical expansion to Dickinson Solid Waste Operations Engineering Services.

“Currently, the permit we have through the DEQ doesn’t include vertical areas. We have an existing permit, and now we’re trying to expand that permit to be able to extend the height of the landfill, which will allow us to bring in many more tons of solid waste in that existing footprint,” Zuroff said.


This project has been on the city’s radar for some time, Zuroff remarked.

“We've been looking at expansion of the landfill, especially with the increased tonnages from the boom in southwest North Dakota. We did look at expansion to the north. We have concerns of some environmental issues to the north,” Zuroff said. “... The city didn't have the appetite for eminent domain. So this is a great option that we don't have to look at other areas for a landfill. … This allows us to expand vertically and keep our existing footprint.”

The major permit modification that was approved in early June by the Dickinson City Commission focuses on municipal solid waste (MSW) fill-site area — or everyday generated, Solid Waste/Recycling Manager Aaron Praus said.

Praus, who’s been working for the city of Dickinson for more than 20 years, said that they are already conducting vertical expansion within the cells of garbage even though they are still below normal typography in some areas.

Modifications include incorporating cells of the landfill that are not developed and tying in the layers of old MSW and inert fill area to make one mound of waste versus two separate piles. Inert is large-item debris that does not require permitting to dispose of, Praus said.

Plans include laying synthetic liners across the area, tying it down to the sidewall and filling the layer up, Praus said, adding it’s as if someone were to make a bowl and put a crown on the top of it.

“What does it do for us? It obviously ties our site together so that we can fill at a more consistent level versus having the different sections,” Praus noted.

One of the challenges with doing vertical expansion is the steep embankments on the east and north walls, Praus said. The other walls of the landfill do not pose any critical challenges as of now and are “good to go,” he added.


The process of simply developing a new permit is meticulous, Zuroff continued. In order to expand vertically or horizontally, the site area must be examined for groundwater expansion issues, soils, hydrology, etc., as well as maneuvering how liners are going to be put in place, he added.

“That area was a good site when the Briquette Co. … gave it to the city to be able to use it for the solid waste disposal because of the soils and the hydrology in the area. That's why it's real limited to areas (where) you can put a landfill. With the hydrology, possible contamination of water resources in the area, that's why we do groundwater monitoring; soils are always looked at in any landfill permit,” Zuroff said.

According to city documents, the landfill modification would incorporate additional capacity, mitigate cover soil shortages and maximize the return on investment of the site.

Houston Engineering Inc. would like to have the permit renewal submitted to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Equality by Dec. 31, which would provide facility options for phased development.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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