“We’re just reacting to this, and I think the public understands,” said Haywood County Commissioner Kevin Ensley, who added that the county has been planning for just such an expense since at least 2011, and has been saving for it since increasing the yearly availability fee from $92 to $162 in 2015.
Commissioner Brandon Rogers said that the problem “is what it is” and needs to be dealt with promptly.
“Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things,” he said. “We’ve inherited it and have to handle it.”
The landfill opened in 1973 and accepted waste until 1995. The county is required to maintain the property, and has fought methane and groundwater pollution ever since.
The gas problem has been brought under control over the past 18 months, but groundwater seeping through the 80-acre site remains out of compliance.
Although the landfill was compliant with the relatively few environmental regulations in force at the time, were it built just three years later, new laws would have required that it be lined, which would have prevented many headaches over the past 20 years.
During a June 5 meeting of the Haywood County Board of County Commissioners, County Tax and Solid Waste Administrator David Francis requested commissioners call a public meeting for July 18 to discuss the project with the public.
Approved later in the meeting were $258,000 worth of contracts to McGill and Associates as well as Bunnell Lammons Engineering for the design of a geo-membrane covering that will be placed over the site, among other related costs.
The covering would then be covered with almost 3 feet of dirt and will help dry out the rotting trash beneath the cover, diverting an estimated 60 million gallons of rainwater each year from filtering through the rubbish and becoming polluted in the process.
The $258,000 expense will take the project from here to when the bidding process begins and will be split between the solid waste budget and the solid waste fund balance.
But that’s only the beginning; Francis said the project as a whole would cost about $5 million — a bargain, considering just three months’ worth of fines imposed by environmental agencies would cost the county far more.
Once the plan is complete in mid-2018, the liner will be installed under the supervision of a quality control team responsible for monitoring the construction process to ensure stringent environmental guidelines are followed closely.
“Construction will hopefully begin in the spring of 2019,” Francis said. “There’s no such thing as ‘for good,’ but when you’re putting that cap on there, we’ll be monitoring this for 5, 10, 15 years, or whatever it takes to get there.”
The cover is expected to reduce contaminants in area groundwater by 99 percent, and is more cost-effective than either digging up the site and shipping waste outside the county, or attempting to pump out all the contaminated water emanating from the site.