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Dane County Department of Waste & Renewables

Sustainability Campus

With less than 10 years of landfill space remaining at Dane County's Rodefeld Landfill, our community has an opportunity to plan for our changing waste stream and purposefully set the foundation to advance us towards a circular economy.   

Our vision for the next site includes development of a sustainable business park or “Sustainability Campus” to divert waste and create local circular economies.  This will be accomplished by attracting reuse, repair, and recycling businesses; new waste management technologies; and research. The intent is to design the site for safe public access, education, and recreation where visitors can examine their relationship with waste and the Dane County community can move towards a future where waste is not a liability, but a resource and an opportunity. 

Dane County is currently working with the City of Madison to determine the feasibltiy of utilizing a portion of the Yahara Hills property for this project.   Learn more about the proposed project below. 

Opportunities

Recreation

Our project accommodates and considers for continued golf at the Yahara site and has the potential to offer additional recreational opportunities for the community. We will strive to maintain, diversify and even enhance the recreational experience at the site through maintenance of existing trees and restoration of natural habitat.

Utilization of surrounding greenspace for recreation and education will be a focus of our master planning efforts and Dane County intends to maintain recreation before, during, and after operating at the Yahara site.  Dane County Parks Division will also be incorporating the current Rodefeld landfill and surrounding lands into their next Parks and Open Space Plan.  Upon the closure of the Rodefeld site, up to 150 acres of land will be available for recreation which will serve our community until the Yahara site is ultimately returned to open space. 

Additional recreational opportunities at the Yahara or Rodefeld site could include trails for hiking, biking, cross country skiing and space for activities such as disc golf.  Our vision for a multi-use recreational site would allow more people than ever before to enjoy the space in a variety of ways.

Reuse & Resale

Designating space for reuse and resale activities at the Sustainability Campus will increase diversion of high value and usable materials from the landfill waste stream. Co-location of a reuse store or mall would provide business owners with access to free or low cost materials.  Surrounding green space can also be designed for community flea markets and workshop space could be included for repair and classes.  This location along Hwy 12/18 and Interstate 90 has high visibility and easy access for potential donors and customers. Retail space would create a functional transition and buffer from the more industrial operations of the landfill to the recreational uses of the golf course and Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison Casino. 

Recycling

The Department of Waste & Renewables recognizes that our waste is a resource and that with investment in our community, local businesses, and technology we can help create jobs and reclaim commodities that can benefit our local economy.  Through an innovative, public-private partnership, we already offer construction & demolition recycling services where metal, wood, cardboard, vinyl siding, aggregate, and other items are processed into marketable materials (wood chips, animal bedding etc.) or sold as commodities.  This existing public private partnership serves as a potential model for additional opportunities of this scale. For example, we have identified mattress recycling as a feasible and realistic business opportunity at the Sustainability Campus.  Not only do bulky mattresses deplete landfill space, but from a business perspective this is lost potential revenue. We look forward to salvaging this lost revenue and committing resources to advancing mattress recycling in our region.  

Organics Management

Organics Composting: Our vision is to establish a composting facility at the Sustainability Campus. Such a facility will aid in securing and quantifying a steady stream of feedstock of organic material, making it the first step towards designing and building a digester facility.  Additionally, composting is necessary for management of digestate in digester operations, mitigates greenhouse gas emissions, and produces a nutrient rich soil amendment that can be used on Dane County farmlands and gardens to increase soil health. A composting program for food waste can be achieved with relatively small capital investment and far less risk than digestion while achieving many of the same environmental benefits.  Implementation of a successful food waste composting program will be a significant advancement in our food waste management system.  

Organics Digestion: The City of Madison and Dane County have both investigated the feasibility of constructing an anaerobic digester for processing food waste and other organic material.  Dane County has experience with digesters, landfill biogas, and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) operations, including the technical expertise, ability, and interest to own and operate a digester, if it is financially viable.  Based on Dane County’s experience operating an RNG Plant and knowledge of the RNG markets, it appears that organics digestion could become financially viable at a regional scale, but it will require significant capital investment and sufficient feedstock volumes.  Dane County would be able to leverage its extensive industry relationships to further support our region by evaluating the feasibility of digestion. 

 

Upcoming Events

We are excited to share more about our project plans with the community and will be hosting public informational meetings through the course of the project.  See below for information on future and past events: 

12.7.2021.  5:30 pm.  Virtual (Zoom):  Dane County Public Works & Transportation Committee Special Session - Public Informational Meeting on Waste & Renewables Sustainability Campus.  Agenda.  Zoom Registration

You can submit questions or comments prior to the meeting. Please send them to: Waste.Renewables@countyofdane.com. Written questions during the meeting will be accepted via the Q&A feature in Zoom.

 

FAQs

FAQs will be updated as new questions arise.  Last updated 12.4.2021

1. Why is this project needed?

We all generate and take out our trash each week. For Dane County’s half a million residents, this adds up to over 450,000 tons of waste each year.  All of that stuff has to go somewhere and responsible waste management is necessary to protect human health and the environment.

We could in theory haul all of our waste to a landfill outside of Dane County, but that would come with significant negative social, environmental, and economic impacts.  It would shift the burden of our waste to another community and cost money and emit greenhouse gases to transport the waste. The responsible thing to do is to find a way to manage our own waste locally.

2.  Why can’t we recycle all of our waste or turn it all into renewable energy?

Our community’s ultimate goal should be “zero waste” production. Waste is actually a collection of resources that should be diverted to reuse, recycling, or conversion to renewable energy. 

Dane County already strives for landfilling as a last resort and is a national leader on waste diversion and waste-to-energy.  At our current site, we have a year-round Clean Sweep program and recycling programs for shingles, tires, metals, bikes, wood, and construction & demolition waste. We have also invested $29 million in a Renewable Natural Gas Facility that converts landfill gas to renewable vehicle fuel and generates revenue.  

Currently, there are significant challenges preventing us from diverting all waste for recycling or energy production and the most economic and technologically feasible way to manage materials that cannot be recycled is by landfilling.  The intent of the Sustainability Campus is to allow us to adapt to, and even create, new technologies as they become technologically and economically feasible. 

Finally, we should not lose sight of the importance of waste reduction measures and preventing waste in the first place.   Waste education is a major part in achieving “zero waste” and is central to the goal and vision of this project.  Learn about some of our current educational programs here

3. What type of recycling activities would occur in the Sustainability Campus?

Some examples of opportunities that we think are economically viable today include programs for reuse and resale of usable materials, mattress recycling, and composting of food waste.  In the future we hope to be able to move towards organics digestion, attract business that can upcycle plastics and other materials, and develop technologies for emerging waste streams like batteries and solar panels.

4. Why is this location being proposed and not another?

There are a number of factors that go into considering a potential site, including setbacks from private wells and wetlands, land topography, hydrology, surrounding land uses, and access to utilities.  

The Yahara Hills site has a number of advantages for this project including its proximity to the urban center of our County, which minimizes waste disposal costs and allows for easy access to the site. These cost savings are passed to our customers.  Since many of our customers serve municipalities, ultimately, these savings are reflected on our property tax bills.  

Additionally, this project centers on the Sustainability Campus which will attract and encourage recycling businesses right here in Dane County and  provide our area a unique economic development opportunity.   This site is close to City utilities, transportation routes, and other businesses, making it ideal for the Sustainability Campus.  Other potential sites do not have these amenities, meaning those alternative sites would likely be developed as a landfill without a Sustainability Campus.

5. How will this project impact the surrounding neighbors?

With the proposed new Campus’s proximity to our existing facility, we will continue to share many of the same neighbors.  We also realize this plan will bring the future landfill approximately ½ mile closer to some residents.  For over 35 years, we have worked hard to be the best neighbors possible, listening to concerns and making adjustments to our operations when possible.   This is a responsibility that we take seriously, and we will continue to do everything possible to limit our impacts.  

There are also regulatory and contractual requirements that will be developed for this site to help reduce and mitigate the potential impacts.  Site design and operations are regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the landfill permitting process includes a local negotiation process with the surrounding communities to determine key elements of the project.   For example the current local agreement restricts truck traffic to certain routes, limits operating hours, and even includes long term plans for the site to remain as a nature conservancy.  

Additional detail about other potential concerns is included in later responses.

6. What are the opportunities for public input?

Public input is key to the success of this project and we look forward to engaging with the community about what the future of waste management looks like for Dane County.   There will be many opportunities for public input during the planning process, and Dane County will consider all of that feedback as we work to design and develop this site.

The County will host or attend informational sessions as needed through the course of planning for the project, with the first opportunity is at a special session of the Public Works Committee on December 7, 2021.   We also expect this project will go before several County and City committee meetings during the approval process.  More information on upcoming meetings will be posted in the “Upcoming Events” section on the project web page.  

7. How and when will access to the site be determined?

Vehicle access to the site will be assessed and determined after a traffic study and review of setbacks and requirements.  The primary objectives will be to maintain safety and minimize impacts to neighboring communities.  Access points and traffic plans will need to be approved through the City of Madison’s land use process and by the Dane County Public Works & Transportation Committee.  Traffic routes are typically a part of a negotiated agreement with nearby municipalities.  Preliminary access points are currently being considered and will be presented in the spring of 2022.

8. When will construction start? 

Construction of some elements of the Sustainability Campus including a Waste Education Center (and Administrative Building) and composting area are proposed to start by 2025.  These early elements of the project will impact a relatively minimal footprint of the site.  Early stages of construction of the landfill infrastructure is not anticipated to be needed until approximately 2028-2029, following several permitting steps.

9. What will happen to golf?

It is at the discretion of the City of Madison to determine the future for golf at the Yahara site.  The City formed the Task Force on Municipal Golf in 2019 to address ten years of negative net income and offer recommendations on how to make golf more financially and environmentally sustainable.  The recommendations from the Task Force included a recommendation to reduce the number of holes to 18 (from 36) at the Yahara site.  This proposed project accommodates for 18 holes of golf at the site until at least 2045 and possibly beyond.  Dane County is committed to maintain the level of play and golf experience at the site through natural buffers, protection of trees and screening, and being attentive and response to concerns from the golfers and City Parks staff. 

10. How will recreation be incorporated into the landfill site?

Utilization of surrounding greenspace for recreation and education will be a focus of our master planning efforts and Dane County intends to maintain recreation before, during, and after operating at the Yahara site.  Dane County Parks Division will also be incorporating the current Rodefeld landfill and surrounding lands into their next Parks and Open Space Plan.  Upon the closure of the Rodefeld site, up to 150 acres of land will be available for recreation which will serve our community until the Yahara site is ultimately returned to open space.

Additional recreational opportunities at the Yahara or Rodefeld site could include trails for hiking, biking, cross country skiing and space for activities such as disc golf.  Our vision for a multi-use recreational site would allow more people than ever before to enjoy the space in a variety of ways.

11. How high will the landfill go?

The future height of the landfill will be determined during the formal design process that will occur over the next several years.  There are limits to how high a landfill can be built based on stability of the slopes, local negotiations and community input, and geotechnical investigations.

The height of the landfill also determines the capacity and the length of time the site could serve the community.

12. What are the requirements for building a landfill near private wells and what is the risk to groundwater?

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requires that a landfill’s limits of waste boundary must be at least 1,200 feet from any private or public water supply wells.   The landfill owner may request a lesser distance if it can be demonstrated that there would be no impact to the water supply (adequate hydrology, well construction, depth, etc.).  This type of request also requires notification to the landowner and allows for the landowner to have the opportunity to be involved in the landfill permitting and design process.

Modern landfills, like the Rodefeld Landfill and any future landfill, are highly engineered and carefully constructed to ensure protection of the environment.  There are also various requirements for landfills to monitor the groundwater and private wells surrounding the site to ensure that the water quality continues to remain consistent with conditions prior to the landfilling activities.  Through our 35 year history of monitoring groundwater at and near the Rodefeld site, our team of staff, consultants, and regulators have not observed any results that would indicate that the landfill is impacting groundwater.

13. What will be done to control odors?

We are committed to doing everything possible to minimize odors.  Landfill odors are caused by constituents in biogas that are produced during the breakdown of the waste we all generate from our households and businesses. The most effective way for us to control odors is to control the landfill gas with a robust and well-functioning landfill gas extraction system.  To achieve this, we have and will continue to use the following management practices:

  • Install permanent cap over closed areas of the landfill.  This cap is engineered to include multiple layers, including a layer of HDPE plastic, and it is over 4-feet thick.  Covering the waste creates a physical barrier that prevents gas from leaving the waste. 
  • Install temporary cover soils over as much of the uncapped landfill area as possible.
  • Cover the active area of the landfill at the end of each day.
  • Install landfill gas wells sooner and closer together than required to collect landfill gas as it is generated.  To learn more about our landfill gas collection and treatment system, check out this video.
  • Utilize advanced gas collection and monitoring systems that remotely monitor our gas extraction wells every 15 minutes and automatically make adjustments to maximize the gas collection effectiveness. 
  • Monitor the gas extraction system on a daily basis and inspect and monitor our entire wellfield at least monthly.  We also perform a scan of the surface of the landfill each quarter to identify any areas where gas could be travelling through the cover. 

Varying conditions such as barometric pressure, wind patterns, and humidity do temporarily impact gas collection abilities and odors and we have also invested in a number of tools and practices to respond to these conditions including:

  • On-site weather stations to monitor these conditions
  • Mobile odorant misting system
  • Perimeter odor neutralizing vapor system
  • Surface application of deodorant, as needed

Contact

We are excited to share more about our project plans with you!  Please contact us at waste.renewables@countyofdane.com