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Specialty landfill proposal sparks debate in Shepherd

Public comment open to Nov. 30
Shepherd landfill proposal area
Posted at 7:29 AM, Nov 14, 2023

SHEPHERD — The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is extending a public commenting period for a proposed auto shredder residue repository, which is ruffling feathers for area landowners and residents in Shepherd.

Auto Shredder Residue (ASR) is the finest material that is broken down from cars and household appliances during the recycling process.

The Pacific Steel and Recycling processing facility in Lockwood produces anywhere from 1,500 tons to 2,500 tons of ASR a month and takes it to the Billings Regional landfill for disposal.

Eyeing a piece of property they own off of Hwy 87 out near Shepherd, PS&R has another idea.

"The land out there, the geological landscape works well for storing this material that we can hopefully build to reuse down the road," said Jason Heath, Branch Manager of Pacific Steel and Recycling Lockwood.

Two years ago, PS&R introduced a proposal to put an ASR repository on 90 acres of a 320-acre plot. Heath says the repository would allow PS&R to store the material for decades until parts of it, like copper wire and plastic, could be dug back up and recycled if demand and technology emerge.

"Our whole ideology is over the next coming years we will have technology to be able to still get that material back out of there and can process it," Heath said. "But processing won't be happening at that site, that site is only a repository site. No processing activities will happen out there. All of our processing happens here in Lockwood."

Looking out over the fields from a vista on Rainy Butte, Kit Charter Nilson and her nephew, Boyd Charter, look at the pristine prairie their family has ranched for generations, land they don't want to see turned into a landfill.

"We do not know how much this would affect our health or our general welfare, but we don't want to find out either," Nilson said. "Besides the air quality, we are also concerned about water contamination, noise and light pollution, bugs and mosquitoes, and of course property value. Who would want to build a nice house up here and look right down here on a landfill?"

Nilson and Charter are part of a group of area residents and landowners speaking out against the repository, saying they are concerned about how it will affect the area for years to come.

"We feel there's already a space right now for it in the Billings landfill and instead of spreading it out to other areas, just keep it where it's at," Charter said. "Instead of waiting 50 years and saying this was a bad idea, we feel that it really needs to be taken seriously right now to question if it's a valid idea."

Heath says PS&R is working with the DEQ to follow state and federal guidelines for the project, and ultimately it is up to the DEQ whether to issue a permit approving that land use.

Public comment is open until Nov. 30 and a public meeting with the DEQ will be held on Nov. 21 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Shepherd High School.