Public officials elected by the voters of La Plata County are celebrating the passage of HB23-1194, which is awaiting the signature of Gov. Jared Polis. The legislation establishes a fund from which the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will administer grants to local governments to assist in environmental remediation for closed landfills.

The legislation’s journey to the governor’s desk began just west of Bayfield on County Road 223, where a closed landfill – the one now at the top of the list for grant funding – sits, an unrelenting thorn in the county’s side. The landfill occupies about 15 acres, totaling an estimated 100,000 cubic yards of municipal waste.

For years, La Plata County has clashed with state regulators over the landfill, which it purchased in 1970. The facility ceased accepting waste in 1994, and was closed in compliance with state regulations at the time. But in the mid-2000s, groundwater monitoring detected elevated levels of vinyl chloride, a toxic compound ubiquitous to household items. The chemical’s name splashed across newspapers in February when a train carrying the gas derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, raising concerns about environmental contamination.

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Author: Reuben Schafir, 
The Durango Herald
Image: Jerry McBride, The Durango Herald