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Tornado damage will have small impact on landfill


The city landfill is pictured on Friday.

The city landfill is pictured on Friday. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff


Nathan Gregory



The amount of debris from tornadoes in East Columbus and Lowndes County last month will have a minimal but noticeable impact on the lifespan of the two cells at the city landfill. 


Columbus councilmen voted in March to raise the vertical limits of the cells, pending approval from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. One cell was extended to 315 feet and the other to 285. At the time, it was determined by Neel-Schaffer Engineering that raising the limits gave each cell another 5.6 years of life, assuming that the average rate of 25,000 tons of waste is disposed at the landfill each year. Repermitting has made for 140,439 tons, or 264,980 cubic yards, of space for waste, Kevin Stafford of Neel-Schaffer said. 


A landfill is typically constructed in cells, with each cell consisting of a clay liner built over the native soil base, at least three feet above the water table, according to 


Stafford estimated the extra storm debris accumulation could reduce the life of each cell at the city's landfill by four to seven months. 


Both the city and Lowndes County are dumping fallen trees and limbs there. County Administrator Ralph Billingsley said as of Thursday, crews working in the county outside the city limits have removed 7,851 cubic yards of debris and delivered it to the landfill. He said he expects the total amount picked up by the time the process is over could exceed and possibly be double the initial estimate of 12,500 cubic yards. 


"If you double it, that's 25,000, and I certainly think it will be at least 25,000 based on what these early numbers look like," Billingsley said.  


Twenty-five thousand cubic yards is roughly 13,250 tons using Federal Emergency Management Agency calculations. 


City project managing firm J5 Broaddus estimated 6,600 cubic yards, or 3,500 tons, when all the debris was picked up and deposited. Added to county accumulations, the landfill would have about 16,750 tons of debris it would not have had if the five tornadoes confirmed by the National Weather Service in Jackson on April 28 had not occurred. 


When life once again runs short for the two active landfill cells, likely sometime around 2019, the council will have to decide what to do next. It will have three options to consider: Build a new cell at the existing site, close the current landfill and locate a new one at another site, or get out of the business altogether and have all waste disposed of at the Golden Triangle Regional Landfill. 


A report Neel-Schaffer conducted concluded the city has the footprint at the existing facility to build new cells. The problem is a sample of the existing soils there found that the soils were not suitable to meet MDEQ specifications and would have to be replaced. Raising the ceilings of the current cells once again will not be an option, Stafford said. 


"They couldn't just dig a hole and start filling it up," Stafford said. "When they revisit it, at this point we know we're as high as we can go ceiling wise. We know we've got to find more footprint." 


Whatever decision is reached will cost money. Horizontal expansion would gain an additional 10 acres of disposal area -- about 30 years' worth, according to the study. Present estimates for that are more than $450,000. Developing a new site would cost roughly $2 million, while closing the facility could cost about $700,000 between capping and closing off the site and hauling rubbish to the GTR landfill. 


The city offsets the cost of landfill operation by charging a $21-per-ton tipping fee. There are four cells that have already reached their capacity limits and have been closed off.


Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.



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