More than 40 years ago, city leaders in Fort Smith envisioned the benefits of sitting a landfill in the community. One wonders if they could have possibly imagined how great those benefits would prove to be.
In 1983, the city landfill began operations on 1,012 acres of land purchased from Fort Chaffee, which had declared approximately 6,000 of Fort Chaffee's 72,000 acres to be surplus. The remaining 66,000 were turned over to the Arkansas Army National Guard training facility. Use and redevelopment of the 6,000 surplus acres was left to the discretion of local community citizens and leaders. . In addition to processing household waste, the landfill engages in composting and methane gas management, which provide valuable resources to the community.
Today, the Fort Smith landfill is the largest in the state of Arkansas. It has been described as the envy of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.
And because of Fort Smith’s exceptional foresight in the early days of the landfill’s development, its future will be even more beneficial than its past or present. Because the state of Arkansas is no longer permitting landfills, the size and capacity of the Fort Smith landfill ensures that it will be able to operate 50 years longer than any other landfill in the state.
With an expected operational life of 65-plus years, the landfill sits on 1,012 acres and has a disposal capacity of more than 72 million cubic yards of waste and required soil cover material.
The landfill services customers in six Arkansas counties and in portions of two Oklahoma counties. An average of more than 400 vehicles bring more than 1,000 tons of trash to the landfill each day.
But the landfill does much more than just contain trash. The decomposition of waste produces methane gas, which Fort Smith is able to capture, process and re-sell through a private developer. And by capturing the methane gas, the department is able to avoid the release of pollutants into the air we breathe as well as generate revenue from the sale of the methane.
As other communities experience population explosions and grapple with how to handle their solid waste collection and disposal, Fort Smith has an enormous advantage of solid waste independence – made possible by the community, which owns and operates for most of this century.
What an amazing community asset! Fort Smith should be proud, just as we need to be resolute in taking care of this treasure and doing our part to keep it viable for as long as possible.
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