New cell at landfill nearing completion

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

 

Register/Bob Johnson
The new 10-acre cell at the Allen County Landfill a mile southeast of LaHarpe is nearing completion and should be ready for use by early December. Bill King, director of Public Works, thinks the landfill won’t taste its first trash until early spring, however. The white areas are filter rock that is being spread above clay and synthetic liners.

The new 10-acre cell at Allen County Landfill, under construction since late 2008, should be completed by early December. Bill King, director of Public Works, said the final stage of construction — arranging 40,000 tons of filter rock a foot thick over the cell — was underway. The additional space, costing about $2 million, is expected to meet needs for the next 10 years.
The landfill holds residential and commercial trash from all of Allen County, as well as receiving several loads each day from nearby counties. On most days between 150 and 200 tons of trash is placed, compacted and stabilized with a sprayed slurry of pulverized paper from the recycling center in Wellsville. Once a week, a layer of dirt further encases the trash.
When a cell reaches capacity, four to five feet of dirt is spread over the mountain of refuse and seeded to grass.
“Someday we’ll have a big green hill here,” King said.
Someday is a long way off.
The 240 acre landfill has been open better than 35 years. Since opening, 50 surface acres have been filled with trash. Overall, only about 20 percent of the available land has been consumed by landfill operations. Some of the rest of the land is used as a quarry. It’s a compatible operation.
Landfill cells are mainly subsurface, created by quarrying rock. A 20-foot-thick shelf of limestone is blasted into manageable boulders, then crushed into small aggregate used for road maintenance and construction.
The total operation has two-fold financial advantage for the county.
First, the county can produce rock for its road system of more than 1,000 miles much cheaper than if it were purchased commercially. Then, the holes are used for the landfill, which generates income for the county from tipping fees and a half-cent sales tax. Those funds are used both to maintain and expand the landfill through a reserve fund.
About $1 million will remain in the reserve account when all construction costs are paid. In years ahead, with no significant expenses anticipated, reserves should grow, King said. He noted that landfill income was sufficient to purchase equipment, most recently a large trackhoe-mounted hammer that breaks apart boulders too large to fit into the crusher’s hopper.
“Before, we used a wrecking ball and crane, which wasn’t very efficient, and then hired some of work done,” King said. “This is much better.”

CONSTRUCTION of a landfill cell entails more than just clearing debris from the floor of the quarry.
Two feet of clay is deposited on the floor and tightly compacted so it becomes a barrier to moisture. Huge sheets of polyurethane are spread over the clay. Above that, a protective, pervious layer of Petromat, a tough material often used as a stabilizer beneath asphalt on streets and roads, is placed.
Rain water and fluids generated by compacting trash seeps through the filter rock. The cell’s bottom is gently sloped so that water drains to the south edge where it is collected in a two-acre lagoon. Once there the water is permitted to evaporate.
“While the water is contaminated, it isn’t dangerous,” King said. “I wouldn’t want to drink it, but it isn’t an environmental problem.” Its collection ensures that none reaches groundwater outside the landfill. Wells positioned on the perimeter of the landfill monitor whether any contaminated water is escaping.