Northwest Tucson needs a new, commercial landfill, DKL Holdings president Larry Henk believes.
Henk argues the eventual closure of Pima County's Tangerine Landfill, the fuel-burning distance to landfills in Pinal County, and the volume of trash that comes with growth in greater Tucson are all factors in support of the Marana Regional Landfill he proposes to build on 430 acres of land in West Marana.
Henk, with 25 years in the industry including time as president of the large Allied Waste company, has operated the waste collection company Tucson Recycling and Waste Services for five years. The firm hauls trash from a transfer station in Nogales, Ariz., as well as trash in greater Tucson and part of Pinal County.
"The opportunity I saw, with Tangerine closing … the obvious growth corridor is Marana toward Red Rock," Henk said.
"I know the market dynamics, and I see the growth," he said. "I do control a waste stream in this market I can deliver." And, Henk argues, he can capture other trash leaving the region by offering competitive pricing to haulers of municipal and residential waste.
"The great unknown is where does our fossil fuel cost go?" Henk said. "There are various issues I think are going to make fuel very expensive. We needed a location that was convenient, and within the wasteshed to minimize the cost of transportation."
Henk began searching for property. He arrived at the flat ground north of Avra Valley Road owned by Herb Kai, the large Marana landowner who is also the town's vice mayor.
"This was one of the more isolated parcels in the region," said Michael Racy, the veteran area government affairs representative and lobbyist who is working with DKL Holdings on the landfill project. "There are very few sites that are private, on designated truck routes, with good transportation access, with the appropriate character of surrounding uses, and a good buffer. It's really a mile all the way around the property."
A landfill on the Kai-owned property "would have minimal impact to the surrounding areas," Henk said. Avra Valley Road is designed for truck traffic, and has it now. "It is an industrial corridor, it is a designated truck route."
He believes the Marana Regional Landfill can have favorable environmental effect.
Proximity to the two branches of the Brawley Wash is "a positive," Henk said. "Both washes are not developable. It is a naturally occurring buffer, a half-mile in all directions, that cannot be developed." DKL has said it would restore the east branch of the Brawley Wash to its natural flow, allowing riparian vegetation to regain a foothold.
DKL would also work to create burrowing owl habitat within the acreage. "They need banks or berms," said Racy. "There would be a burrowing owl management area in all the berm around it."
Henk believes the landfill could help protect the desert from wildcat dumping. People dump on the desert because it's easy, and it doesn't cost anything. The Marana Regional Landfill "will obviously satisfy 'convenient,' which other facilities won't." He estimated Pima County spends half a million dollars a year to clean up wildcat dumping. The Marana landfill would offer two free dumping days per year. "I'm confident they'll go there," Henk said.
Henk lives in Chandler, a half-mile from that city's landfill. He's been in the industry "almost my entire working career," stretching back 25 years. "I take great pride in what I do, and I do it well.
"I recognize the solid waste is being generated. It has to be managed in an environmentally safe, economically feasible manner. I'm proud the facilities I operate are the best they can be."
Larry Henk is president of DKL Holdings. He was chief operating officer and president of Allied Waste Industries, which had 355 collection companies, 65 recycling facilities and 167 active landfills while he ran it. Henk now operates waste-handling operations in Tucson, Nogales, Prescott Valley and Phoenix.
DKL vice president David Slager formed Arizona Waste Services in 1984. It was the first company in Arizona to implement a curbside recycling program. Previously, he worked as a welder and electrician for a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., then was general manager at a privately owned waste collection company in the Midwest.