The Des Moines-based Metro Waste Authority, owner of landfills that receive a large part of the solid waste produced in central Iowa, is considering ending its 10-year-old reciprocal agreement with the South Dallas County Landfill in Adel effective Sept. 30.
“We’re not 100 percent sure why,” said Mike Fountas, director of the South Dallas County Landfill (SDCL). “It’s gone on for a long time and always renewed, and now it ain’t. We’re trying to meet with them and see if we can extend it and do what we can do for Dallas County.”
The non-profit SDCL formed in 1970 and is permitted to accept waste only from the city of Adel and its residents, but its reciprocal agreement with the MWA outlines rules for accepting waste from one another’s service areas and the associated costs. Businesses and residents from outside the city limits of Adel pay an extra $10 fee because they are dumping outside the MWA’s comprehensive planning area.
“We have an agreement that we can take waste out of their planning area,” Fountas said, “but we have to pay them a certain amount of money for that waste. They want to end that, so then we could only have Adel’s waste.”
According to a study commissioned by the MWA in June 2018, the MWA receives about $60,000 in fees annually on about 285 tons of residential solid waste dumped at the SDCL.
At present, the MWA operates two landfills within its planning area: the Metro Park East Landfill at 12181 University Ave. N.E. in Mitchellville and the Metro Park West Landfill at 3499 337th St. northwest of Perry.
“We’re just pushing pause,” said MWA Executive Director Michael McCoy. He said he would like to get the SDCL more involved in the MWA’s 10-year strategic plan for waste diversion, environmental management and similar efforts encouraged by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“I’m not trying to run anyone out of business,” McCoy said. “I’m just trying to make it so we can plan financially for 10 years out, five years out. Let’s come together and jointly do some of these things. We need that commitment.”
Adel City Council member Shirley McAdon, for more than 40 years the Adel representative to the South Dallas County Landfill Agency, said a lapse in te agreement might also be related to the MWA’s plans for its new Northwest Transfer Station in Grimes.
“It’s about flow control for them,” McAdon said. “Metro is making plans to open Grimes to residential drop-off, plus they’re thinking of expanding their hours at the Perry location, and they’re looking to capture that waste stream to support the Grimes station and the Metro West facility.”
The Grimes transfer station is not expected to open for residential dumping until spring 2020, McAdon said, and in the meantime “Adel would obviously be more convenient for those customers if they’re in closer proximity to Adel versus those other two places.”
Fountas said that if the reciprocal agreement is terminated at the end of the month, the SDCL will post signs and do its best to make customers aware of the changes.
“We don’t want the customers to deal with it,” he said. “That’s the sad part. People from Waukee, cleaning their basement out, now they’ve got to drive 40 minutes north or they’ve got to drive 40 minutes east. It’s just not fair. It’s going to wind up in ditches, ravines, then what do you do? They’re not going to drive five miles north of Perry. They’re not going to drive 10 miles east of the state fairgrounds.”
Fountas’ prediction of an increase in illegal dumping in Dallas County was not welcome news to Dallas County Secondary Roads Director Al Miller.
“We’ve already got enough of that to deal with,” said Miller, whose crews frequently clean up illegally dumped waste in the unincorporated parts of rural Dallas County.
According to the Iowa DNR, as of June 2014 the MWA’s comprehensive planning area included “all cities and the unincorporated area in Polk County; the cities of Carlisle, Hartford, and Norwalk in Warren County; the cities of Mingo and Prairie City in Jasper County; the city of Jefferson in Greene County and the cities of Adel, Dawson, Linden, Minburn, Perry, Redfield, and Waukee and the unincorporated area in Dallas County.”
The MWA website indicates the agency’s board of directors is composed “of 16 member communities, one county and six planning members.” The list of agency members includes the cities of Alleman, Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Carlisle, Clive, Des Moines, Elkhart, Grimes, Hartford, Johnston, Mingo, Mitchellville, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Polk City, Unincorporated Polk County, Prairie City, Runnells, Sheldahl, Urbandale, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights and an area described as “outside city limits.”
“It’s not a done deal,” Fountas said. “Hopefully, they can work with us, and we can get it ironed out before the 30th. It would be a good thing for Dallas County’s side if they would work with us. It’s just not the fairest thing for Dallas County residents because people outside of Adel have to take their waste to Perry or out to Metro East, and that’s a long drive. There’s no convenience in that. So we’re going to try our best to protect Dallas County and whatever we can do.”
McAdon said that if the reciprocal agreement lapses, she hopes to see at least a short-term extension that will give the SDCL time to make the new rules known to the public and give the public time to adjust themselves.
“We’re going to work something out,” she said, “so that we feel better about the education piece of this so that people will not be surprised and will not be inconvenienced because they thought they could do something, and they can’t.”
McCoy sounded positive about a way forward for the MWA-SDCL partnership.
“Metro Waste will work with you,” he said. “We will work it out.”