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Old landfill monitoring is still costly

LOUISBURG -- The county is preparing to add more monitoring sites and conduct more reporting at its landfill after state testing revealed higher than preferred levels of metals and volatile compounds in groundwater there.

But, there is no need for alarm, a geologist told county commissioners last week.

"In groundwater, the technology allows us to look at things that are very tiny," Maddie German, a geologist with Municipal Engineering Services Company -- the Garner-based company the county retained to help it craft an assessment and action plan to address the matter.

"If we're talking about stuff that are in the parts per million range, that's about one inch in 16 miles," German said for reference. "Parts per billion, what most of the stuff that we're actually looking at at the [county's] landfill, is about one second in 32 years.

"... that's really small," German said. "So ... stuff's not bubbling up out of the ground.

"It's not craziness."

But, it did get the state's attention in the summer of 2018, prompting the State Division of Waste Management to send a letter in October 2018, requesting that the county perform additional monitoring at the county's landfill.

The county's landfill received waste from 1973 until it closed in 1994. Now, it serves as a transfer station, receiving waste that is then sent some place else.

But, as a closed landfill, like others across the state, the Division of Waste Management, under the State Department of Environmental Quality [DEQ], requires that the sites be monitored to make sure dangerous compounds are not leaving the site and leaching into the drinking supply.

The county's testing that took place in June 2019 essentially confirmed DEQ's concerns, identifying consistent detections of volatile organic and metal compounds.

In Franklin County's case, German said, that was benzene and 1,4-Dioxane.

At the levels detected at the county's landfill, German said, there is no need for health concerns.

"We took all your groundwater monitoring results from many, many years, compiled them and looked at it," German said.

"The concentrations that we're seeing are relatively in line with stuff you've had in the past; the stuff that we're looking at isn't really new, and, actually, we're not looking at concentrations that are the highest that you've ever seen.

"... The concentrations that you're seeing are not above 10 parts per billion in anything," she said. "You have no double digit numbers.

"... These are very, very small numbers."

Beyond that, the layout of the landfill is such that the flow of water on the site goes away from residential homes on Timberlake Road.

Also, years ago, the county purchased adjoining properties as a precaution if it had to perform mitigating actions at the site.

Also, residents on Timberlake Road, county officials said in a previous meeting, either are on county water or have access to county water.

To address the state's concern about issues at the landfill, the county and Municipal Services have put together a plan of action that includes, among other things,:

• Submitting a proposed work plan to DEQ this month;
• Install two new monitoring wells;
• Continue semi-annual groundwater monitoring.

It will cost the county about $17,000 to install the two new wells, about $1,000 for the additional lab analysis, $3,000 for a work plan and $7,000 for an assessment report that must be submitted to DEQ.

Long-term, the county would be looking at $31,000 to track compounds as they are naturally remediated on the site to make sure they are not escaping.

Initially, German noted, the state set out to monitor closed landfill sites for groundwater issues for at least 30 years after they were shut down.

But, she warned commissioners that the state will not allow closed landfills to stop post-closure monitoring if there are compound concentrations above their respective standards.

"In the history of closed landfills, the state has been doing a lot of moving the goal post," German said. "We're under the impression now that they're trying to get all of the closed landfills in assessment so they can monitor them, indefinitely.

"So, this 30 years of monitoring post closure might be going away."

The report by Haynesworth and German did not require any action by the board, but their corrective action plans are moving forward.


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