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Hernando's garbage crisis has a start date: January 2010

BROOKSVILLE — The trash is piling up and the clock is ticking. By January 2010, Hernando County may be facing a garbage crisis.

That's the date the county expects its landfill to be full. The state permitting process to open a new cell at the 360-acre site is dragging, and county officials say there is no way the extensive amount of work will be done in time.

"We've got to move 1-million yards of dirt," utilities director Joe Stapf said.

County utilities officials just recently prepared bids to do the initial phase of the $14-million project, which is digging a 26-acre hole. Those bids could come to the County Commission as early as January.

Stapf said he anticipated that there would be no shortage of companies interested in doing the work. The area is full of businesses with large equipment used in local mining operations, some of which have been slowed by the economic downturn.

But timing and weather are big concerns. "It's all earth-moving and that gets very complicated when the rains come," Stapf said.

He sees the landfill expansion as a perfect example of the kind of project that might see some funding from the federal economic stimulus program that has been talked about in Washington. While much of the focus has been on road, bridge and other infrastructure projects, he said the landfill construction will definitely put people to work.

Because permitting is already under way, he said the project would also qualify as more "shovel-ready" than infrastructure projects that have not been planned or permitted.

County commissioners recently discussed how projects that are already under way and for which funds have already been set aside might have the best luck in securing the federal grant dollars when and if they become available.

"The plans have been done and the specs (specifications) written," Stapf said. "We could bid this permit tomorrow but we don't have the permit yet."

Permitting from the state Department of Environmental Protection has stretched on nearly two years and the remaining issues center on the way the county plans to line the expanded dumping area. The cells are lined with a multilayer material that protects the soil and ground water from contamination from the garbage dumped there.

The county is in the fourth round of responses to questions from the DEP.

Stapf has also begun to search for a way to handle Hernando County's garbage before the new cell is ready and after the capacity of the existing landfill is reached.

Last week, he visited the garbage incinerator in Pasco County and spoke to utilities officials there about possibly using the facility. He said they were open to the idea because they have excess capacity at a landfill in Osceola County they are paying for but not fully using.

Utilities has set aside $1.6-million in fees to send garbage out of county as needed once the landfill is full, Stapf said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando's garbage crisis has a start date: January 2010 12/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 12:00pm]
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