A new cell being constructed at the St. Joseph Sanitary Landfill will be needed by this fall in order to keep up with unexpected amounts of tonnage. A contract for part of the work was recently approved by the City Council.

The St. Joseph Sanitary Landfill has continued to see high tonnage and is rushing to complete a new dumping cell this year to keep from running out of room.

In 2018, the landfill was averaging 325 tons of refuge per day when the decision was made to lower tipping fee costs to $32 per ton in order to attract new customers. The city was hoping to see up to 550 tons per day in order to offset the loss after cutting the price. Tonnage quickly began averaging in the 700s and and one point last September hit around 900 in a day.

While the additional revenue is welcomed by Solid Waste and Recycling Supervisor Rod McQuerrey, the extra tons of waste mean the active cell being dumped in now is getting full more quickly than expected.

“That’s definitely sped up the need for a new cell,” McQuerrey said. “We’re running fairly close on space. We need to be functional by October.”

At their last meeting, the St. Joseph City Council approved a contract with Global Containment Solutions, LLC., for $576,000 to construct synthetic lining on a new cell that is currently being built.

McQuerrey explained that the excavation of that cell is ongoing, and then a layer of clay will be added before the synthetic liner can be constructed. The final step will involve adding a layer of sand to act as a drainage media.

It may have been expected that the shelter-in-place period brought on by the coronavirus pandemic would slow down daily tonnage, but McQuerrey said the numbers stayed high and even grew. In May, the landfill saw around 355 vehicles bring in 888 tons of waster per day.

“It appears that everybody that was supposed to be staying at home decided it was a good time to clean their house and bring it to the landfill,” McQuerrey said.

The council also approved an annually required commitment to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that assures closure and post-closure care of the landfill would be funded if the City of St. Joseph decided to no longer own and operate the facility.

“It calculates how much money, essentially, that if St. Joseph was to just throw their hands up and walk away from it, the state would have to have to basically come in and close it and maintain it for the next 30 years,” McQuerrey said.

The $15.7 million estimate would be taken from taxes and other funding sources available to the city to complete the obligation until the post-closure phase had ended.

He said it is very unlikely the city would ever give up operations of the landfill.

If unexpected tonnage continues to come in, it will eventually effect the overall space at the landfill, but McQuerrey said it would still likely be several decades before that is a concern.

Brendan Welch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.