Pole Mountain

Cheyenne Landfill Variance Process Mark McClain, P.E.

Mark McClain is a senior consultant and Principal with Golder Associates.  He is a registered Professional Civil Engineer in Colorado.  He obtained his Undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and his Masters degree in Civil/Geotechnical Engineering from the University of Colorado.  He has more than 30 years of consulting experience on a variety of environmental and civil engineering projects.  Most of his experience has been in landfill design and permitting and groundwater remediation.   Mr. McClain has managed and implemented the design and permitting for landfills at more than 40 sites in Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and North Dakota.  His main areas of expertise lie in the design of landfills and landfill closures, construction management and construction quality assurance.  

Happy Jack (Cheyenne) Landfill Expansion

In 2008, the City stopped accepting municipal solid waste (MSW) at the Happy Jack Landfill in an effort to conserve the facility’s remaining disposal capacity until an appropriate long-term solid waste management solution was identified. Faced with diminishing capacity and no permitted future waste management solution, the City increased diversion and began shipping their MSW to a landfill near Ault, Colorado, at considerable and increasing expense to the community.  In 2011, after years of research and in-depth study of prospective solid waste management solutions, and after careful consideration of numerous technical, environmental, and social factors that affect the citizens of western Laramie County (County), the City approved an expansion of the Happy Jack facility as their preferred solution to long-term MSW management.

The lateral expansion at the Happy Jack facility required a variance from current WDEQ Location Standards for the siting of a new municipal solid waste landfill facility. These location standards were:

  • Chapter 2, Section 3(a)(iii): Distance to residences and other buildings
  • Chapter 2, Section 3(a)(v): Distance to drinking water sources

Chapter 1, Section 2(i)(ii) of the WDEQ regulations states that, in consideration of any variance request, the applicant shall demonstrate that:

  1. No available alternative locations which meet the location standards exist within a reasonable distance of the boundary of the service area;
  2. It is not possible for the applicant to use existing permitted solid waste management disposal facilities owned by another person within a reasonable distance of the boundary of the service area; and
  3. Special or unique conditions or circumstances apply to the applicant that justify the granting of the variance.

In short, WDEQ was requiring that the City demonstrate that the expansion of the Happy Jack Landfill was the best alternative for Cheyenne’s solid waste disposal needs considering environmental protection, social factors and cost when compared to other potential new landfill sites or shipping to an existing landfill.  This presentation reviews the factors that were evaluated to satisfy the variance requirements and support the City and WDEQ conclusion that the expansion was the best option available to meet the City’s needs.