Wyoming landfill legislation should improve water quality despite decades-long delay

May 7, 2013

The Wyoming Rural Water Association supports the state’s plan to limit water pollution caused by leaking landfills… But says it’s already taken too long to get started on the effort, and it could be a while before Wyoming sees significant improvements.

At a press conference last week, Governor Matt Mead reminded the public of two bills the legislature passed this session. They created a municipal solid waste landfill remediation program as well as an initiative to help sub-par landfills close and transfer new garbage to better facilities.

Mark Pepper directs the Wyoming Rural Water Association, a non-profit that helps community water, wastewater and solid waste system administrators to comply with federal clean water standards.

Pepper says most other states in the country started similar landfill capping and remediation efforts 30 years ago, when the federal government was offering financial assistance for the projects. Rocky, arid Wyoming bet it wouldn’t have problems with landfills leaking into its drinking water, and was wrong.

Pepper says the new state bills provide funding for municipalities to close and remediate landfills, and leave it to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to make the rules and prioritize projects.

“So it’s going to be a battle, now, for resources to accomplish what we want to accomplish – so that we don’t contaminate our groundwater supplies – and take care of the issue at hand.”

He says the new state laws will go a long way to protect drinking water… But even at $500 million, Pepper thinks the state is underestimating the overall costs of the task ahead.

“What we truly need is to get a few of these under our belts so that we actually have a good idea of what the actual cost is going to be.”

Pepper says at least now Wyoming has the advantage of learning from other states’ experiences.