Federal and state environmental regulations will force closure of the Bountiful Area Refuse Disposal landfill in a few years, Davis County's environmental health director predicted Tuesday, but the cost of cleaning up and monitoring the landfill will continue for years beyond that.

"It's going to be very expensive, extremely expensive. It could be an economic burden to the county and the residents for years. It's something that will never just go away," Davis County Environmental Health Director Richard Harvey told the county health board Tuesday.Harvey just returned from a national conference on solid waste in California and said information he received there leads him to believe the landfill, now operated solely by Bountiful and the object of a lawsuit, will be forced to close in a few years.

"I don't see the state or the feds allowing BARD to operate very far into the 1990s," Harvey said.

Bountiful's continued operation of the landfill has worsened the problem and will drastically increase the cost of eventually cleaning it up and monitoring the hazardous chemicals leaking from the landfill into the groundwater, Harvey told the board.

If the landfill had been closed when the county's garbage burning plant near Hill Air Force Base started operating last year, the landfill would have been governed by older, broader federal regulations, Harvey said.

But its continued operation brings it under newer, stricter regulations on hazardous materials and drinking water standards, Harvey said, which will require more expensive monitoring and treatment standards.

The lawsuit regarding the landfill is over $1.8 million in a cleanup fund established by Bountiful and the other cities in Davis County that operated the landfill before the burn plant was built.

The suit also seeks to establish the financial and legal responsibility of each city for the landfill's eventual closure and monitoring.

Harvey said six new wells have been drilled around the landfill to test groundwater for contaminants, bringing the total number of wells to 10.

An engineering firm hired by Bountiful recently tested the well water and found hazardous chemicals including lead, selenium and polyvinylchloride, or PVC.

The contaminants are not a public health hazard because of the relatively low levels found and the landfill's isolated location, Harvey told the board. Layers of impermeable clay underneath the landfill will probably prevent the contaminants from leaching into groundwater used for drinking water, he said.

But Harvey predicted federal regulations will still require the landfill's closure and construction of more clay berms and other expensive steps to prevent leaching of hazardous material into the groundwater.

Harvey also said the regulations could require that any water draining off or out of the landfill be captured and treated, with the chemicals and heavy metals removed before the water is allowed to drain into the Great Salt Lake.

"That's not really an attractive environment out there around the BARD," Harvey said. "The groundwater out there already contains a lot of salt, sulphur, and other substances that make it unattractive for drinking water.