In 2009, Haywood County started an environmental assessment at the former trash site to see how far and how deep potentially harmful contamination leaching from the landfill had migrated. During the next two years, the county installed 21 monitoring wells and started collecting water samples for testing. A report on the initial findings is still pending, according to a presentation made to the Haywood County Board of Commissioners Monday.
The first set of wells focused mostly on how far the contaminants from the landfill had spread horizontally. The next eight, which will cost the county $155,000, will begin to look at how deep in the ground the contaminants traveled.
Although the county started its environmental assessment three years ago, geologist Andy Alexander said the water quality testing is still in the early stages.
“We are on the very first step,” said Alexander, a senior geologist with Bunnell-Lammons Engineering, a Greenville, S.C.-based company. The engineering firm has worked on the assessment with the county since 2009.
However, nothing seems to indicate that contaminants from the landfill traveled too far beyond its boundaries.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going very far off the site,” Alexander said.
To help ensure that contaminants had not spread into private drinking water wells, some nearby property owners allowed water samples to be taken from their wells.
“There were no chemicals from the landfill present,” Alexander said.
The problem of contaminated groundwater is inevitable in almost all landfills operating prior to 1993. Regulations approved after that date require landfills to have liners, which prevent chemicals from spreading, and leachate collection systems that collect and retain rainwater seeping through the landfill until it can be treated at a wastewater treatment plant.
During the same Monday meeting, the county also allocated an additional $50,000 from its contingency fund to pay for the collection and transportation of leachate from its currently used White Oak Landfill to a wastewater treatment plant.
Haywood County budgets money each year to take care of leachate, but it is difficult to predict the weather. Therefore, it only sets aside enough money to cover the average amount of rainfall expected to mix with the garbage and become leachate. This year, only about $28,000 was dedicated to leachate disposal.
“You never budget for worst-case scenario,” said Stephen King, the county’s solid waste director.
In years with uncharacteristically heavy rains, the county must tap its contingency budget to fund the collection of the leachate.