Update - September, 2021
La Plata County held a virtual informational meeting on Wednesday, August 25 to address public concerns over the closed Bayfield Landfill west of the town on County Road 223. County staff and Tim Shangraw, an engineer with Engineering Management Support, Inc. (EMSI) of Golden, facilitated the Aug. 25 meeting to provide details and answer questions from the public. EMSI is La Plata County’s contracted consultant on the remediation project.
La Plata County’s longstanding cleanup at the closed Bayfield Landfill is working to remediate the small amount of groundwater contamination that no one is drinking. The cleanup is successfully protecting public health and the environment.
Built in the 1950s and bought by the County in 1970, the County closed the solid waste Landfill in 1994 and has carefully monitored its condition since closure to protect public health and the environment. In 2004, after a decade of monitoring the groundwater with results showing the groundwater was clean, vinyl chloride was first detected in some of the groundwater at concentrations above the Colorado groundwater protection standard of 2.0 parts per billion. At this concentration, a person would have to hypothetically drink the groundwater every day, all day, for 30 years to possibly have an adverse health impact. Fortunately, that hypothetical situation does not exist at the Landfill.
No one is drinking the impacted groundwater and the County has worked hard to keep it that way. After discovery of the vinyl chloride, the County investigated all nearby drinking water wells that may possibly be impacted. The investigation showed the water in the wells are clean. These wells continue to be monitored by the County and the wells continue to be uncontaminated.
The County’s investigation also showed the impacted groundwater has traveled only a short distance across the street adjacent to the Landfill. The impacted area is small.
Even though no one is drinking the impacted groundwater contained in the small area, the County worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop and implement a groundwater remediation plan, which was approved by the Department. The County is happy to report that the cleanup has shrunk the areal extent of the impacted groundwater from its initial extent and decreased the concentrations of vinyl chloride. The County anticipates the County’s cleanup will be successful. Public health has been and continues to be protected.
The cleanup, however, has not been without its challenges. In 2016, the Colorado Department of Public Health asked the County to undertake additional measures. But La Plata’s environmental consultants believed those additional measures, which would have cost County taxpayers over $1 million, were unnecessary. The Department nonetheless issued an administrative order pursuant to the state solid waste landfill statute. The order also contains a so-called “blank check” provision that obligates the County to undertake unspecified expensive measures even though the County may believe them unnecessary. La Plata challenged the Department’s order in court on numerous legal grounds. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled on two of these legal issues holding that the Colorado Department of Public Health could issue an administrative order to the County as owner of the “facility.” The case has now returned to the trial court to address the remaining County challenges to the order.
The recent ruling and continuing litigation has not diminished the County’s cleanup or its resolve to protect public health. Throughout the County’s legal case the cleanup has been ongoing and public health is protected. The County is firmly committed to completing the cleanup in a responsible manner that is protective and cost effective.
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