PHOTOS Collier proposes nearly doubling height of landfill to 20-story mound

Scenes from the Collier County Landfill near East Naples on Monday, October 11, 2010. Waste Management and Collier County officials are proposing to almost double the current height of the landfill to two hundred feet. Photo by Tristan Spinski

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

Scenes from the Collier County Landfill near East Naples on Monday, October 11, 2010. Waste Management and Collier County officials are proposing to almost double the current height of the landfill to two hundred feet. Photo by Tristan Spinski

The county buries about 215,000 tons of waste each year. With this vertical expansion, the landfill would gain space for another 8 million tons and give the county 15 to 20 more years at the site.

Golden Gate Community Center, rooms A and B

4701 Golden Gate Parkway

5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12

— The Collier County Landfill may grow nearly twice as tall if county officials move forward with a state permitting process.

If county commissioners agree on Oct. 26, Waste Management, the company that operates the landfill, would submit a permit application to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to request the trash be allowed to pile up to 200 feet rather than its current 108-foot limit.

The proposed expansion would bring the trash hills to the height of an about 20-story building, or roughly the height of some of the condominiums along the coastal area of Naples.

The proposal is the subject of a meeting Tuesday evening at the Golden Gate Community Center on Golden Gate Parkway.

The move has been in the works for years as the county anticipated its landfill capacity would run out in 2039.

“About 10 years ago, the board directed staff to look at opportunities to further maximize our existing resources to meet the demands,” said Dan Rodriguez, Collier’s solid waste management director. “It’s just the next big project to go after.”

The county buries about 215,000 tons of waste each year. With this vertical expansion, the landfill would gain space for another 8 million tons and give the county 15 to 20 more years at the site.

A less favorable option, officials said, was trying to find another location for the county’s waste.

“It would be a great travesty to try to move it at this point in time,” Commissioner Jim Coletta said. “It would cost a lot of money and there hasn’t been a new landfill permitted in Florida in many, many years.”

Rodriguez said in the last 20 years, the state has approved one landfill of this type.

Peter Gaddy, who heads the Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association, said there was little objection among the board members. There were minor objections about aesthetics.

The hills right now are surrounded by trees, but Gaddy said he wasn’t sure if the larger height would be visible from Interstate 75.

“This might not make the best ‘Welcome to Naples’ feature we could put out to the community,” Gaddy said.

Rodriguez said visibility studies haven’t yet been done.

“It would be a great travesty to try to move it at this point in time,” Commissioner Jim Coletta said. “It would cost a lot of money and there hasn’t been a new landfill permitted in Florida in many, many years.”

David Farmer, chairman of the Urban Land Institutes’s Southwest Florida district council, also supported the idea.

“Logic says we either have to go up or go out,” Farmer said. “My preference is to go up. I’d rather have a couple hundred feet on less acreage.”

Not only will the county use less acreage, it expects to use less money — about $100 million less, according to Rodriguez.

And that’s a number that rings well with Commissioner Donna Fiala.

“We don’t have to buy anything new,” she said, “and secondly, the people don’t have to go any farther to get rid of (the waste).”

Another option for addressing growing trash mounds is incineration, such as Lee County’s waste-to-energy program implemented in the mid-1990s.

Lee has virtually eliminated the need to bury waste. Its landfill now is merely a receptacle for ash, the incinerator’s byproduct, and some construction debris.

Energy that’s generated powers the operations, said Lindsey Sampson, director of Lee County’s solid waste division.

This month it received the “2010 Sustainable Waste Management in the United States” award by a waste-to-energy advisory board at Columbia University in New York.

“This might not make the best ‘Welcome to Naples’ feature we could put out to the community,” said Peter Gaddy, who heads the Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association, of the location off the Alligator Alley part of I-75.

It was a $300 million investment over the life of the facility and users ended up paying an additional $25 a year once the incinerator was up and running.

“I would find it difficult to argue that using waste energy is not a better method of waste disposal than landfilling,” Sampson said. “It uses a waste material and produces a commodity that is quite valuable. That’s electricity.”

He said those energy costs are cheaper than fossil fuels, keeping users’ rates lower over time.

But Collier has taken a different approach.

“The board has said that is not where we want our strategy to be focused around because of the cost and perception of environmental (impacts),” Rodriguez said of incineration. “Recycling is more cost-efficient.”

The county is hopeful it can increase its recycling rate, currently at 37 percent of all waste, and reduce the need for its landfill. That’s something it will have to do if the state environmental department denies the expansion application.

The biggest hang-up is commercial recycling. While residential recycling is at about 80 percent, commercial rates are about 27 percent.

“There are a lot of people that still throw a large amount of waste away and we have to have that capacity for them,” he said.

The state may take more than a year to form a decision and it may take another 25 years before elevations grow.

There is no cost to county government unless Collier backs out after Waste Management pays its $100,000 for studies, then the county would have to reimburse the company’s costs.

The landfill would rise up to about 175 feet and the remaining elevation would be used for gas well heads or a weather station. Gas created from decomposing trash is now burned off. But a gas energy plant being built by Waste Management on the site will, as of about March 1, be converting that gas to energy, for which the county will receive $400,000 a year.

__ Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/

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u2cane writes:

Recycle and don't waste things you already have.

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