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City celebrates teamwork with landfill ribbon cutting

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Mayor Dennis Kintigh, center left, and City Councilor Judy Stubbs, center right, cut a ribbon to officially open cell 5a Tuesday afternoon at the Roswell Landfill. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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Delayed about six months from its initial expected completion date, the city’s newest landfill cell was officially opened with a ribbon cutting Tuesday afternoon.

It wasn’t a celebration of the landfill, however, but the teamwork behind it, Mayor Dennis Kintigh said.

In February, the city learned it was facing a potential crisis when a survey of cell 4 at the landfill showed it was filling up faster than projected and would reach capacity in July. The city moved to expedite construction of cell 5a, but would later face delays when a 100-year rain event hit the area at the end of May.

“We’re celebrating a team that came together, dealt with a crisis, moved promptly, moved professionally, and that’s what we’re offering to the citizens of this community is teamwork done in a first-rate manner,” Kintigh said in his remarks.

Behind him, a large red ribbon was stretched between two heavy equipment vehicles on a road on the edge of the nearly 20-acre cell.

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“This is one of the critical, basic services the city provides to its citizens. This deals directly with the health and well-being of this community,” he said, noting it is the only landfill in the county.

“We serve an area that is larger than three states,” he said.

Abraham Chaparro, director of solid waste, credited Fernando Valdez, landfill supervisor, and Debbie Reyer, senior administrator in the Solid Waste Department, with coordinating the work that had to be done between the city and its contractors on the project. Souder, Miller and Associates, Albuquerque, designed the cell and oversaw the project. J&H Services, Albuquerque, was the construction contractor.

While the construction of the new cell was underway, SMA resurveyed cell 4 and designed a plan for the city to maximize its space by using a “wedge,” a 30- to 50-foot wide shelf on the edge of the cell that gave the city another 10 months of usage out of cell 4, said Sarah Garduno, a staff civil designer with SMA.

A new compactor purchased by the city a year ago and use of a GPS system to track the compaction rate also gained some time, Chaparro said.

The construction of the cell was hampered by the floods in late spring, he said. Crews had to shape the sides of the cell three different times, and saturated soil had to be extracted and allowed to dry out.

The New Mexico Environment Department has strict criteria for landfills, Garduno said.

Engineers have to make sure the depth and slope of the landfill matches the approved plans, and the system to collect leachate — the liquid from decomposition and rainfall — must tie into or align with the system of the adjacent cell, she said.

“We had to make sure we were hitting all the design components to make sure we get proper drainage in the future. It just means there’s no way this facility would possibly contaminate the surrounding areas,” she said.

The GPS system now used at the landfill should increase the lifespan of the new cell, Chaparro said.

“Based on previous work methods, we should have about 10 years. Based on the more modern methods we have now, we’re looking at 15 to 17 years in utilizing this 20 acres to serve the entire city of Roswell,” he said.

The entire landfill has space for nine cells, Chaparro said, which should last the city about 75 years.

He expects that with construction of future cells, including 5b, the department will be able to save the city money by doing much of the work itself rather than using a contractor.

“We’re going to be able to shape 5b. So we’ll do the heavy lifting, the earth moving ourselves. When we contract it out, they’ll just come in, fine-tune the slopes that we built and put the liner in. That’s going to save us anywhere from 30% to 40% on the next step,” he said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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