Steadily rising vehicle traffic and sharply rising tonnage tipping at the Highway G Landfill in Cloverland has put Landfill Venture Group (LVG) in a race against time to expand the landfill before the capacity of the current operation is reached.

Referencing information from Chippewa Falls-based consultant Oakridge Engineering, Highway G Landfill Facility Manager Mark Busha told members of the full Highway G Landfill Commission last Thursday that traffic counts of vehicles dumping at the landfill rose 8% in 2017, 9% in 2018, 15% in 2019 and another 15% in 2020 — up 57% overall from 2017 to 2021. Annual tonnage of waste dumped saw an 89% jump in 2020, while the trailing four-year annual waste tonnage average was up 18%. Since 2019, Busha said annual tonnage is up 56%.

“We had a real busy year out there,” Busha said, attributing the rise to household decluttering spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, a subsequent large post-Covid influx of new residents into Vilas County, the “restructuring” of Eagle Waste and Advance Disposal operations following ownership changes, and the start-up and fast growth of several new local waste haulers. “We’ve moved up our schedule as far as expansion. We’re pushing on that a little harder than we had planned initially … We’re pushing faster and moving quicker now … to get this expansion done … Based on our last waste volume survey we had done in November, we will look to be constructing landfill space in 2026, which is a couple of years earlier than what we had originally thought.”

Established in 1988, Landfill Venture Group (LVG) is an intergovernmental commission made up of 13 towns and the City of Eagle River within Vilas County. LVG has operated the Highway G Landfill and waste processing facility, 7001 Highway G in Cloverland, since 1989.

“We built a very usable facility for people out there,” said Busha. “Obviously, people feel comfortable coming out there and using it. People use the heck out of it. It’s done it’s job very well. I think it’s important that people are aware we have a really nice, user-friendly facility out there.”

Boulder Junction town supervisor Jim Galloway agreed.

“The operation is excellent,” he said.

The influx of waste tonnage has been good for LVG’s finances, particularly as it looks ahead to expanding its landfill operations.

“That’s one positive of having so much tonnage — we’re able to put money away for that,” Busha noted. “It’ll be nice to have the money to do all this when the time comes. Right now, it looks like we’re on track to have the dollars there to build these things (additional waste disposal cells) as we go.

The Highway G landfill, which has filled and closed five disposal cells, is currently in the process of filling its sixth and seventh disposal cells, its last permitted cells, according to Busha, who has served in his current role since 1997. The 89-acre landfill facility has since added an additional 70 acres to accommodate proposed future landfill expansion, space sufficient, he said, to accommodate an estimated 60-75 years of disposal.

“We’re set for a long time right now,” said Busha.

Busha reported that as of October 2021, the current active landfill is 66% full — filled 7% in the past six months and 9% for the year. Based on the current average filling rates, Busha noted that the existing landfill is estimated to be filled around June 2026, up from the previous estimate of January 2028.

Reporting on the timeline on the proposed expansion of the landfill, Busha said an initial site inspection by Oakridge had been completed last October and that an initial site report, currently in progress, is expected to be submitted to LVG “in February or shortly after that.” A feasibility report, expected to be 18-24 months in the making, will be performed in 2022-’23, with a plan of operation slated to be created over a 9-12 month period in 2024. If all goes well, with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permitting in hand, it’s expected that construction will take place in 2025-’26 on the next disposal cell.

“If we need to be ready by June 2026, we will be,” said Busha.

Washington Town Chairman Jim Egan praised the work of Highway G Landfill employees, calling LVG “blessed” to have them, noting their “hard work is appreciated.”

Highway G Landfill Commission chairman Scott Maciosek, of Cloverland, agreed.

“We’ve got a nice group of people out there,” he said. “Mark does a hell of a job. The guys out there are excellent. Everybody works together, I’m proud of them — their hard work and the dedication that they have to the landfill.”

In other news last week, members of the Highway G Landfill Commission approved Landfill Venture Group’s proposed balanced $2,657,200 budget for 2022.

The bulk of the landfill’s $2,657,200 in projected revenues for 2022 include an expected $2,435,000 in regular waste charges.

On the expense side of the ledger, projected expenses are slated to include $550,000 for future development of the landfill, $550,000 for licenses and permits, $502,000 for a USDA loan payment, $190,000 for salaries and wages, $150,000 for professional engineering, $115,000 for leachate treatment, $75,000 for diesel fuel, $66,000 for payroll taxes and $50,000 for landfill expansion.

Commission members also approved Landfill Venture Group’s audited financial statements for the year ended Dec. 31, 2020, as prepared by certified public accountants KerberRose, S.C. of Shawano.

The audit listed 2020 year-end assets of $7,731,189, liabilities of $6,072,170 and a total net end-of-year position of $1,659,019.

In other news at last Thursday’s meeting of the Highway G Landfill Commission, members:

— Re-elected Frank Bauers of Arbor Vitae to a three-year team on the commission’s executive committee; and

— Re-elected three executive committee officers — Maciosek as chairman, Gary Schmidt of Plum Lake as vice chairman, and Bauers at secretary/treasurer.