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Officials Say County Landfill Good For ‘50 Years’

A tractor sits in the distance in the current county landfill. Photo by Gregory Bacon

ELLERY — Chautauqua County should have enough room for future waste for at least 50 more years. That’s according to Aaron Gustafson, deputy director of Public Facilities, Division of Solid Waste.

Gustafson and Tracy Pierce, solid waste analyst, recently gave a tour of the landfill to members of the county Planning Board.

During the tour, Gustafson showed members a mountain covered in green grass, along with a nearly empty pit lined with trash. There were also a number of capped metal pipes sticking out of the ground.

The mountain that was covered is the capped portion of the county landfill. The empty pit is for the next phase and the pipes are used to capture the methane the landfill generates.

Paths in the landfill itself are made with crushed glass and stone.

There were also drainage ponds and a pumping station for the runoff water.

Gustafson said if the county accepts 800 tons of waste a day, they will break even, which is about what they get.

“Whether it’s 500 ton or 1,000 ton in that ballpark, I’ve got to handle it with the same amount of personnel, same amount of people, same everything,” he said. “If I get a little more I may need to add a (bull) dozer a little more often, too much I need to add another compactor … but I’m not trying to fill our landfill too quickly.”

Gustafson noted that the county landfill is “user fee” funded and doesn’t rely on property taxes.

“We’re not in it to make huge profits,” he said. “We’re in it to run it effectively and efficiently, according to what the state demands and with the best interest of the county in mind.”

Gustafson said the county does accept waste from other counties, which helps them to be able to pay all of their bills. “We can’t afford to only run, at the rates we’re at, without out-of-county waste. We need a little bit to keep the rates lower for Chautauqua County,” he said.

When Gustafson said the landfill will be good for another 50 years, Pierce noted that estimate doesn’t take into account the drop in population.

“It could be 60, 70 years,” Pierce said.

Once the current area for the landfill is full, there’s still options for expansion; however, Gustafson ponders if society will do things differently with its waste by then. But if not, he thinks the landfill will be fine to continue operations and will creatively be able to expand for the future.

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