Des Moines, Iowa — According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, The Northwest Iowa Area Solid Waste Agency — the landfill south of Sheldon — faces penalties for overfilling landfill cells.
The case started on June 3, 2011, when an engineering firm submitted a report to the DNR concerning the progress of the construction of a new sanitary landfill cell at the Hospers area landfill. This was the first time the DNR was aware that a new cell was being constructed. The construction of a landfill cell requires a construction permit from the DNR. On July 26, 2012, the DNR met with engineers and landfill officials to discuss the status of fill operations, draft permit concerns, and water quality issues.
The DNR discovered that one corner of the facility is about 27 feet higher than was approved. As DNR Environmental Specialist, Jennifer Christian, and DNR Environmental Engineer, Mike Smith approached the top of the landfill, it was observed that the previously used unlined cells of the landfill had each received roughly 200 feet of fill to the north.
The DNR says this represents nearly 5 years of illegal overfill. Landfill officials say they needed to put waste there because the landfill had run out of room before the new cell and leachate lagoon were authorized for use.
On August 23, 2012, a Notice of Violation was issued by the DNR to the landfill due to the placement of solid waste in unlined cells. DNR officials claim that the violations resulted in, and were motivated by, very significant economic benefits realized by the landfill.
In order to properly dispose of the solid waste that was placed in unlined areas, the DNR says the landfill would have needed to stop accepting waste until the additional cells could have been built and permitted. By using the unlined areas, the DNR says the landfill avoided hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs and collected additional revenues in excess of $500,000. They claim that potential economic benefits could be as high as $4.8 million.
At their meeting earlier this week, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission turned the matter over to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.
The landfill serves all cities and the unincorporated area in Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, and Sioux counties; all cities except Spencer and the unincorporated area in Clay County; and the city of Akron in Plymouth County.