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State approves license for Billings landfill expansion

Posted at 10:21 AM, Dec 17, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:50:43-04

BILLINGS – The Montana Department of Environmental Quality announced Monday it has approved plans to expand the Billings landfill.

The landfill expansion project has been under review for several years and last year dozens of residents in the area of the landfill spoke out against the plan. Residents said they were concerned about possible groundwater contamination and blowing debris.

The expansion project calls for enlarging the landfill by 350 acres in seven phases on city-owned property to the south of the current landfill operation.

The Yellowstone County Health Officer has 15 days to sign the license granting the expansion, at which point the project can begin. If the letter is not signed, the city may appeal to the Montana Board of Environmental Review.

In a press release issued Monday, state officials said the license was granted following “a comprehensive review process that included an in-depth environmental analysis, as well as multiple public meetings and an extended public comment period. DEQ received a total of 585 comments, all of which were compiled and responded to in the Final Environmental Assessment (EA) document released today in conjunction with the license approval.”

The city first applied for the license in April 2015.

“We appreciate the public’s input, which was invaluable in helping us conduct a comprehensive and sound environmental review,” said Jenny Chambers, Administrator of DEQ’s Waste Management & Remediation Division. “We’ve addressed community concerns to the full extent possible, asking the City to make several rounds of changes to its application, including the installation of liners and leachate collection systems as an added protection for groundwater. The project now meets the requirements of the Montana Solid Waste Management Act.”

Click here to read the license and full Environmental Assessment document.

According to the press release, the project will expand the existing landfill boundary by 350 acres on city-owned property south of the current facility. Total disturbance will be 293 acres for disposal units, roads, buildings and retention ponds. However, the maximum area open at any given time will be 119 acres.

Impacts to groundwater were among the community’s chief concerns. DEQ’s Environmental Assessment included 57 test pits and 31 test borings, one of which reached a depth of 300 feet and still encountered no groundwater.

Groundwater was found only in one localized area at the site, which has excellent natural barriers to prevent contamination.

The City of Billings will install liners and leachate collection systems for all municipal waste cells.