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Haywood gears up to fix old landfill contamination

Lingering underground contamination at an old Haywood County landfill in Waynesville has prompted the county to buy out a neighboring 25-acre tract, part of a costly plan to stop the spread of pollutants.

The county is purchasing the adjoining property for $850,000. The county estimates it will cost upwards of $5 million over coming years to tackle the contamination. State environmental regulations are forcing the county to fix the issue.

The old Francis Farm landfill pre-dates modern design regulations. It wasn’t lined, allowing contaminants to gradually leach into surrounding soils and groundwater.

“Francis Farm has been an ongoing problem. For years, methane gas has been leaking off the property, and the county has not been in compliance,” said David Francis, a county employee overseeing the landfill remediation plan.

The plan: cover the old landfill in a giant layer of dirt and a waterproof lining to seal the pollution in place.

Rain falling on the landfill is soaking though the soil and pushing contaminants outward. If rain is stopped from reaching the landfill, the migration of contaminants should stop as well.

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A huge amount of dirt is needed, however, which would typically cost a fortune to haul in, and the project is expensive enough as it is. Luckily, a state highway project to reconfigure the nearby N.C. 209 interchange required major excavation.

Francis arranged for 100,000 cubic yards of surplus dirt from the highway project to be trucked in and dumped at the landfill, shaving $1 million off the total cost of the remediation.

But that in turn required a staging area for the imported dirt — thus the purchase of the 25-acre tract beside the landfill.

The county purchased another adjoining tract of 5 acres earlier this year for the same purpose for $200,000.

The purchase of adjoining tracts was also necessary to create a buffer around the landfill. Contamination from the landfill was spreading in their direction. As a result, the county was in violation of state environmental regulations, which prohibit contamination from seeping onto neighboring property.

“Purchasing this property will eliminate that issue. It will allow us to move those boundaries and come back into compliance,” Francis said.

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