Hazardous waste landfill needs new protection

June 02, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Protective measures at a hazardous waste landfill on Solley Road are failing, prompting the landfill's owner to come up with a new plan to stop the flow of underground contaminated water.

The clay cap is coming apart. The system, installed last year to reinject water stripped of carcinogens into the ground, has been shut down since March.

Browning-Ferris Industries, the landfill's owner, is seeking federal and state permission to reseal the facility and is asking state authorities for a surface water discharge permit for its treated water, said BFI project manager Jill Nelson.

The Houston firm would like to recap one side of the landfill this summer and fall, and do the other cell in 1995, in an effort to eliminate the source of the ground water contamination. BFI wants to pump out methane gas, a byproduct of decomposing trash, and burn it on the property.

The company also is pursuing several avenues for what to do with the ground water it has treated but has been unable to return to the underground water system, among them seeking the permit to retain the water on its property. The combined programs eventually would allow BFI to reduce maintenance at the landfill, because less rainwater seeping through the trash would mean less polluted water emerging from the cells.

BFI would have to continue to treat contaminated ground water.

In the past year, one landfill slope collapsed and had to be regraded, and a second was redone because it showed signs that it might slide, Ms. Nelson said.

Sections of the mounds will not support more than a few sparse weeds, and -- despite vents to allow methane gas to escape -- the clay cap is coming apart and allowing rain to seep through the buried trash.

The company collects leachate from the two landfill cells separately and hauls away more than 800,000 gallons of it a year, Ms. Nelson said.

"The landfill is cracking up, plain and simple," said Jay Smith, a board member of the Silver Sands Commu

nity Association.

BFI's plan has garnered tentative support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Denis Zielinski, an engineer who visited the site yesterday. He said it appears to be the best hope for halting the spread of ground water contamination and fixing the ailing landfill.

"Right now, there is no immediate threat," he said. "But the contamination is moving. . . . It's going to continue to move. xTC Eventually, it is going to go into Marley Creek."

An 8-acre section of the 65-acre landfill accepted hazardous industrial waste from 1980 until it closed in 1982. Two years later, volatile organic compounds, including cancer-causing benzene and trichloroethylene, were found leaching into ground water from the closed landfill.

Last year, BFI built a network of pipes and aerators to clean polluted ground water.

But the company turned off the system in March, Ms. Nelson said -- even though it had been able to treat the water to drinking standards -- because the aerated water was creating blockages in the underground aquifer.

The company is temporarily pumping the contaminated ground water to keep it from reaching homes along Marley Neck Road -- although it is almost there -- and eventually reaching Marley Creek.

Only a few homes in that area use well water.

BFI will explain its plans and seek community support at a meeting it is sponsoring at 7 p.m. today at the Altoona Banquet Hall, 7696 Altoona Beach Road. Separate hearings will be scheduled on state and federal permits the company is seeking to do the work, and the company may need a new grading permit from the county.

Community members, who met with BFI officials and their consultants, and officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment and the EPA, remained skeptical of parts of the plan.

Some were displeased with the proposed new cap's components -- a sealer of clay 2 feet deep, topped with 9 inches of shredded tires for drainage, with an 18-inch layer of mixed sludge, flyash and dirt to grow grass.

The sludge, said Ruth Bell, vice president of the Lombardee Beach Community Association, will smell while the work is going on, particularly while the sludge is being stirred into the blended growing medium.

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