The big engines of the yellow earthmovers strain as they maneuver up the incline of huge mound of the red dirt. At the top of the rise, each machine releases between 45 and 50 tons of dirt making the mound taller inch-by-inch, day-by-day, said Bob Welch, project manager and estimator for Tucumcari-based Pacheco's Trucking and Construction, Co.
On the trip down, the earthmover's bulbous wheels gain speed. Back on level ground – and within the three-acre area of excavation – they scrape off another load of earth. The earthmovers' loads are so heavy dozers have to give them a shove until they gain traction on the harder ground along the perimeter. The earthmovers then trudge up the incline again to dump another load on the mound that's beginning to encircle the excavation.
The routine of the four earthmovers has been going on since Dec. 4, Welch said.
They are in the process of excavating 117,000 cubic yards of dirt for the city of Tucumcari's new $1.2 million landfill.
That's nearly enough dirt to fill up two Lobo Pit-sized arenas to the brim.
The landfill is off U.S. Highway 54 about 2 1/2 miles from the intersection of Mountain Road and Tucumcari Boulevard. From the highway, it's another mile to the excavation site.
It has been more than 10 years in the planning period and engineering and planning costs total about $250,000, said City Manager Richard Primrose, noting that the first funds awarded for the landfill project were made in 1997.
Financing of the project is not complete, although the city has received $788,000 for the project, he said.
The remaining $500,000 is expected to come from the New Mexico Financing Authority’s Clean Water revolving loan, Primrose said.
And, the landfill is the city’s top priority funding request for the upcoming legislative session, Primrose said.
In addition to the $1.2 million in construction costs, funds are needed to purchase equipment such as dozers to operate and handle the trash that will be brought to the landfill.
Designated a regional landfill, it will serve Quay and parts of Guadalupe, Harding and San Miguel counties, Primrose said.
The first area that's being excavated is called a cell, and the landfill is permitted for 12 cells that cover an area of about 100 acres, Primrose said.
The shape of the cells has been compared to a bathtub or a football stadium. One cell is expected to have a garbage collection life of between six and 10 years, he said.
At this time, the cell is about 10 feet deep and another 15 feet of dirt will be removed, said Welch.
The dirt that’s being excavated will eventually be used to cover the trash that will be brought to the landfill, Welch said.
When the excavation is complete, a liner will cover the cell to collect leachate, or fluid that comes with trash, Primrose said. A series of pipes will then drain off the leachate to a pond, specially built to collect, filter and contain such wastes.
Meanwhile, the city is working to close down its current landfill, which is off of State Road 104, Primrose said.
“We've been fortunate because the state has allowed us to use the dirt that's been excavated from the First Street project. That’s saved us about $200,000 in closure costs,” Primrose said.
To close the current landfill, state regulations call for a certain amount of dirt to cover trash, Primrose said. The landfill will also have to be monitored and tested for the next 30 years, at additional costs.
Initially the old and new landfills will operate concurrently, and then the old landfill will be closed to all trash, Primrose said.
Fees for dumping of trash are currently $26 per ton and those fees will be reviewed in the coming months during the city's annual budgeting process, Primrose said.
Opening of the landfill for trash is expected in June, he said.