The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has concluded an investigation regarding nearly 30 dead deer found in mid-May near Three Mile Landfill in Summit County.
Utah DWR Northern Region Outreach Manager Mark Hadley said the officer who conducted the investigation interviewed individuals in the area and searched the eastern side of the landfill where he located 27 dead deer.
“Thirteen of those dead deer did have plastic bags and/or latex gloves in their remains," Hadley explained. "The officer talked with a couple of people who said that they did see deer actually eating in the landfill and eating plastic bags in the landfill last winter.”
Hadley explained that although they can’t know for sure, the division suspects the very long and snowy winter contributed to the death of the other 14 deer.
“Likely died from becoming weak because of the difficulty of being able to find food during the winter," Hadley continued. "They might have died from disease, it's difficult to say. Even the deer that we found plastic in, we don't know exactly what kind of a role the plastic played in the deer's death. Was that what killed them? Was it because they couldn't find enough food to eat? Did it get sick and die? Without being able to submit samples to a lab we’ll never know for sure exactly what role the plastic bags and the latex gloves may or may not have played in the deer dying. Because again there were lots of deer up in the County that just simply died from the rough winter conditions that we had this past winter.”
Hadley said the division was grateful for the concerned citizens who brought the issue to their attention. Hadley also said the division appreciated the cooperation of the landfill operators. DWR, the landfill operator and the Department of Environmental Quality all plan to have continued discussions.
The DWR noted that it isn’t financially feasible to try to fence the entire 22-acre landfill
Summit County Solid Waste Superintendent Tim Loveday explains what the county has done previously to prevent deer from eating in the landfill.
“Historically, the Three Mile Canyon Landfill uses a waste dust as daily cover," Loveday said. "It's a light powdery material which is a safe material to use but because it's light and powdery, if the wind blows hard or we get a lot of rain or we get a lot of snow or even deer try to dig through it, they can still access the garbage. So, what we've done since the story broke is that we've changed our operations there to use native soils rather than the waste dust. Which is a much heavier material, that they can't dig through. We've gone through everywhere that we had waste that was covered with the dust and placed six to eight inches of clay/silt material and rock. We're hoping us gone to mitigate here coming in and trying to feed on garbage.”
Loveday explains how the new daily process works.
“We’ll place waste that's compacted with a compactor to get a higher density," Loveday explained. "At the end of the day it's covered with material soil. That's called daily cover and you put six inches of that on. Then the very next morning you come right back to that spot and start putting garbage again. So, you end up with all these little encapsulated cells within the landfill of waste encapsulated by clay.”
Loveday says that there will not be a significant cost difference in using the soil material.
“The actual cost to the county is minimal," Loveday continued. "Because where we're going to be borrowing that material for, is where the next new landfill cell will ultimately be built. So, it needed to be excavated anyhow. So, it just means we’re spending that resource now, rather than five years from now.”