While city of Urbana officials have come and gone over the past three decades, one thing has remained a constant – the city’s responsibility to monitor and maintain its closed landfill.
Located in the upper northeast side of the city near Melvin Miller Park, the municipal landfill operated from 1953 through the end of 1987. Since its permanent closure in 1988, the city has been working with consultants and the Ohio Environmental Agency to meet the rules and regulations laid out by the state in the city’s 30-year post-closure plan.
“The city is not under findings and orders or any kind of orders through the state at this time,” Wastewater Superintendent Chad Hall said. “We are fully compliant and are following our corrective measures plan in the direction the EPA suggested.”
Despite the good standing with the Ohio EPA, city administration decided earlier this year that with the first of what could be additional post-closure plans set to expire in 2018, to work with its engineering consulting firm – Hull & Associates Inc. of Toledo – on a six-task plan focused on the city’s continued gas compliance and remediation efforts at the landfill. The plan, which is underway, was approved by City Council in July at a cost of $93,500.
Before the city and Hull & Associates could get to work and begin moving ground at the landfill to conduct additional monitoring, Hall said, a “section 13” permit had to be obtained, which took two months.
“Basically, section 13 is authorization from the EPA to do any kind of activities on the landfill regarding the potential disturbance of solid waste,” he said.
Testing underway, early results promising
On Sept. 16, the EPA gave the city approval, under direction of Hull & Associates, to install a dozen passive or whirlybird vents on site for gas extraction purposes.
“They were installed in areas of existing infrastructure within the gas extraction system on a temporary basis to see what effects a passive vent can have without getting into a major capital expense of installing a new blower extraction and flare system,” Hall said. “Basically, we are doing our due diligence to see if something naturally can be done with the venting versus something mechanical like a flare.”
What the city discovered after installing the vents several weeks ago has been promising, Hall said.
“We’ve found that they are showing success,” he added. “They are reducing certain monitoring well levels of methane gas and even oxygen. We are very pleased so far by what we are seeing.”
The city extracted methane over a decade ago using a blower and flare system, which the city, under direction from its consultant, shut down in 2004 or 2005, Hall said.
“The reason it was done was because the flare was being fully subsidized with propane in order to burn,” he added. “There wasn’t enough methane being extracted to keep the flare burning.”
Fortunately for the city, the passive vents could be installed into the old undergound PVC pipe infrastructure, deemed by Hull & Associates to be in “good shape,” Hall said.
Along with installing passive vents, 30 temporary geoprobes have been installed, at the direction of Hull & Associates, throughout the landfill. The probes will be monitored for four months.
“Considering the age of the landfill, what they are trying to do is find out where potential spots may be within the landfill where methane is built up or being produced,” Hall said. “These probes are 20 feet below grade, so they actually get down into the waste material.”
Director of Administration Kerry Brugger said once all the data has been collected and examined, the city and its consultant will sit down with the Ohio EPA to discuss the findings. He expects the meeting to take place during the first quarter of 2017.
Hall added if the data shows the passive vents are not working, all three parties involved will go back to the drawing table to see if anything more is needed to prevent any issues from manifesting in the future. Based on the preliminary data, however, the passive vents may be here to stay.
“We are showing some success just in the first two weeks of monitoring,” he said. “I would assume if the passive vents are doing their jobs, I would assume there would be approval from the state to make them permanent.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.