Macon’s landfill will close in next 4 years — and cost $20 million. Why is it so expensive?

Macon-Bibb landfill set to close in 2023

Macon-Bibb County is spending $20 million in SPLOST funds to close the landfill and build a new transfer station. The landfill is set to close in 2023.
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Macon-Bibb County is spending $20 million in SPLOST funds to close the landfill and build a new transfer station. The landfill is set to close in 2023.

Macon’s main landfill will have to be shut down by the time it reaches its capacity in 2023.

Macon-Bibb County currently has $20 million of sales tax proceeds earmarked for the closure of the Walker Road landfill, which includes getting a transfer station ready to open. A transfer station is a place to store garbage before its taken to another site.

Preparation is underway for what lies ahead over the next four years and many questions have to be answered during that time.

“I think we’ll be at that point before we know it because time is moving fast,” interim solid waste department director Pat Raines said. “One thing we do know: we know that the landfill has to close. So even though we’re saying (2023) and it appears that’s several years down the road, it’ll be here before we know it.”

The landfill closure is the second most expensive special purpose local option sales tax project. It falls behind the $40 million budgeted for a major Bibb County courthouse addition.

So why does it cost so much and take so long to close the landfill?

One reason is the numerous environmental regulations that must be followed.

The landfill will need to be covered with clay and six inches of topsoil with grass by the time it’s closed.

“We have to bid it out to a contractor because we have to have 250,000 to 275,000 yards of dirt to close,” Raines said. “That’s the biggest thing about closing. We have to have that dirt because there are rules and regulations by the (Environmental Protection Division) as to the closure process. “

The most recent price of dirt purchased by the Solid Waste Department for the landfill was $6.50 per cubic yard. That would come to $1.6 million for the minimum 250,000 yards needed to cover the landfill.

In addition to bringing in dirt, officials will need to find a place where construction debris can be taken after the landfill is shut down.

Macon-Bibb’s residential garbage is currently being taken to a Wolf Creek Landfill in Twiggs County after it’s picked up by contractor Advanced Disposal, who also handles recycling.

Also, no yard waste is being dumped in the Bibb landfill so the only type of waste is items like construction debris.

Macon-Bibb has hired Triple Point Engineering to help with the closing process.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division requires the landfill to be shutdown within 180 days of the final load of waste coming in, said Kent McCormick, an engineer with Triple Point Engineering.

McCormick said the county would likely need at least 15 acres of land for the transfer station, which will take six months to design and a year to build.

The goal is to get the transfer station up and running before the landfill closes in February 2023.

“In a perfect world... we would want to find, say, 250 acres to 300 acres somewhere that had suitable soil to close the landfill, and in doing the excavation creating a new cell to accept (construction and debris) waste and site a transfer station all on the same property,” McCormick told county commissioners this week. “That’s the dream but... that may be too big of a bite to take.”

Even after the landfill shuts down, there will be on-going costs including those associated with 30 years of maintaining and environmental monitoring before it can be re-purposed into something like a park, Raines said.