State Relaxes Landfill Rules For Burn Zone Debris

Nearly 2000 Truckloads Expected At Larimer County Landfill

Three major fires in two months have left thousands of acres of ash and debris in the mountains west of Fort Collins.

Recent rains sent some of that debris cascading down the mountainsides into Poudre Canyon.

It ended up in front yards, back yards, on Highway 14 and in the Poudre River.

There is so much debris in the river that Colorado Parks and Wildlife Senior Aquatic Biologist Ken Kehmeier says 70 percent of the fish will likely die.

"Their ability to pass that silt and sediment through their gills becomes very difficult," Kehmeier said.

County officials told 7NEWS that it will be up to individual homeowners to clean up the debris that washed into their yards.

Gary Osmus is one of those homeowners. He told 7NEWS on Monday that he planned to hire a contractor to clean up the debris in his yard.

Much of that debris, and the debris from homes that were lost in the fire, will likely end up in the Larimer County landfill.

The director of solid waste, Stephen Gillette, said he's expecting upward of 2,000 truckloads of burn zone debris to be processed at the landfill.

Gillette said that because of the disasters, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is allowing the landfill to take material it wouldn't normally be allowed to take.

We want to help the people who lost their homes," he said. "We don't know if the debris from the homes contains asbestos. The health department is allowing us to take that debris for a period of time."

Gillette said the burn zone debris is being processed in a separate part of the landfill and that it's being covered with soil immediately.

"It will save the victims the expense of hauling the debris to Denver," he said.

Gillettee said he's expecting so much debris from the Hewlett, High Park and Woodland Heights burn zones that it will likely shorten the life of the landfill by an entire year.

Debris also slid down onto Colorado Highway 14 in Poudre Canyon at least three times.

Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ashley Mohr told 7NEWS that much of that debris is being stored at two separate maintenance facilities.

"Most of it was rocks and mud," Mohr said. "We'll be able to use it as fill material if we have a washout later on, so we're going to recycle it."

Homeowners have resigned themselves to a long battle with ash and debris.

"I believe it's going to be many years," said Cate Chase. "It's going to be my lifetime."

Chase noted that debris is still being washed out of the Hayman fire zone ten years after that blaze burned 138,114 acres.

Kehmeier said debris from the High Park fire will continue washing into the Poudre River for a minimum of 3 to 5 years.

When asked if the burned branches and trunks that washed into the river will be removed, Kehmeier said, "The only reason they would be removed is if they become a human safety hazard for the rafters, or if they could potentially clog culverts or bridges."

Kehmeier said eventually, the biological material that washed into the river will decompose.

He said that's when it will help renew life.

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