July 12, 2008

Capping to Start at Stark Landfill: Liner to Be Installed at Countywide to Help Control Odors, Burning

By Bob Downing, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

Jul. 12--BOLIVAR -- Work on installing a synthetic liner over a Stark County landfill plagued by odors and underground burning will probably get under way by the end of the month.

Paul Ruesch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that the liner will be placed over an additional 39 acres at the Countywide Recycling & Disposal Facility in Pike Township and that should limit water and oxygen getting into the buried garbage.

Synthetic liners already have been installed over 33 acres at Countywide.

The installation of the high-density polyethylene liner by a contractor under EPA supervision will probably take several months, Ruesch told the governing board of the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Solid Waste Management District.

That step, along with removing landfill liquids and gases under orders by the Ohio EPA, should sharply reduce odors coming from Countywide, he said.

Ruesch's comments were the U.S. EPA's first public report on its activities at Countywide.

The agency will hold public meetings at noon and 6 p.m. July 31 at Tuscarawas Valley High School near Zoar to update residents of southern Stark and northern Tuscarawas counties on what steps the federal EPA has taken, what actions are planned and what the agency is still trying to discover, Ruesch said.

The landfill owner, Florida-based Republic Services Inc., is working with the U.S. and Ohio EPAs, said Countywide manager Tim Vandersall.

"We're making progress," he said.

On April 11, the company and the federal EPA signed an agreement that outlined steps to solve the landfill problems. The company has developed plans that have been approved or are in the final stages of review by the agency.

Countywide is "a very complex site," Ruesch said, and what's happening there has never before been seen in a municipal solid-waste landfill.

The U.S. EPA strongly suspects that the landfill's liner, its gas-extraction wells or its leachate collection system has been compromised by underground fires and continuing high temperatures, he said.

The agency has determined that the level of health-threatening volatile organic compounds being released from Countywide is very low and not a major concern, Ruesch said. The compounds were found to be at far lower levels than expected.

But he said the agency is still struggling to determine the chemical makeup of the foul and offensive odors that have plagued the landfill since early 2006.

The EPA remains "extremely concerned by the smell" because "we can't tell you what's in it," he said.

The agency has asked its scientists at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina to determine whether the odors could be coming from fumes from the landfill's chemical-laced leachate, or liquid runoff.

Ruesch said the EPA hopes to identify the source of the odors within a month or two.

He also reported that the agency is improving a system of gas-extraction wells, gas-monitoring wells and temperature probes between an older area of the landfill and a newer one where no problems have occurred. Twenty-two gas-extraction wells, five gas-monitoring wells and 17 temperature probes are being installed to keep the underground fire/chemical reaction from spreading.

Eliminating problem

Asked whether the federal agency feels that Countywide's problems are due to an underground fire, as the Ohio EPA has found, or a chemical reaction from buried aluminum waste, as Republic Services contends, Ruesch said it doesn't matter.

The U.S. EPA wants to eliminate the problems, he said. The cause of the heat and odors is "not that important to us."

Ruesch said the EPA has not yet determined which materials will be used for the final capping of the 88 acres where the problems are centered.

Also at Friday's garbage district board meeting, the Ohio EPA reported that odor complaints from the landfill dropped to 14 in June from 30 in May and 89 in April.

Ohio EPA spokesman Kurt Princic said Countywide had another leachate leak on Tuesday and will be cited for a violation of state law.

The 258-acre landfill -- one of the largest in Ohio -- handles about 6,000 tons of trash a day. It takes in about half of Summit County's residential garbage. Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or [email protected]


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