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Wednesday, 05 January 2011 20:27

Public hearing set for landfill problem

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Jackson County’s old solid waste landfill is leaking contaminants in higher concentrations than allowed into the groundwater, and satisfying state demands to safely contain the situation will cost taxpayer dollars.

Altamont Inc. representative Joel Lenk told commissioners this week that drinking water in the area has not been contaminated and is safe to use. The old landfill is less than a mile from Dillsboro. Several families living near the it rely on individually drilled wells for water, according to a report based on the company’s findings.

Altamont, headquartered in Asheville, collects water-monitoring samples at the old landfill for Jackson County.

Commissioners this week set a public hearing — as mandated by the regulating agency, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources — on possible remedies. The hearing will be held Feb. 7 at 1:30 p.m. After that, the next step will be to develop a state-approved corrective action plan, Lenk said.

The most expensive remedy, which involves treating the groundwater at the site, could cost more than $1 million. Responding to questions by Chairman Jack Debnam, Lenk said, however, the county will probably be able to pay his company an additional $10,000 per year for sampling and to satisfy the state.

Debnam, newly elected in November, initially proposed setting the hearing time for 1:45 p.m., with a regularly scheduled meeting starting at 2 p.m. Mark Jones, a veteran commissioner on the board, suggested moving the time back because, he said to Debnam, “you might draw a bigger crowd” than realized given the possible environmental implications.

Jones’ concerns that holding a public hearing during working hours might not give people an adequate opportunity to attend, however, were brushed aside. Debnam pointed out the board would be providing people the state-required 30 days notice.

 

Landfill timeline

• Groundwater sampling starts in 1998, Altamont company hired.

• Jackson County starts testing residential water-supply wells on annual basis in the late 1990s from residents who consented to sampling.

• At the same time, Jackson County installed and began monitoring landfill gas probes along the perimeter of the property.

• The last shipment of waste was taken at the landfill in June 2001.

• A monitoring well was installed into bedrock in 2004 to determine whether impacted groundwater was migrating northward toward a residential water well.

• In 2005, a full-scale operation of extracting landfill gas started. It was thought that the removal of the gas could provide benefits to groundwater quality.

• In July 2010, an additional bedrock monitoring well was installed to evaluate groundwater quality in fractured bedrock southwest of the landfill.

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