Note: For the purposes of full disclosure, GFL Environmental is an advertiser on Polk.Today. – KtE

Polk County Commissioners approved a fix to the landfill during their regular session on Tuesday, but also denied a request to allow the operators to conduct a six month test of an alternate daily cover utilizing foam.

Commissioners approved a minor modification to the agreement between GFL Environmental (now parent company of ETC of Georgia, who made the initial agreement with the County) allowing the company to put a semi-permanent cap over the Cedartown side of the north slope of the Grady Road Landfill.

The cap – using the same materials that a permanent cap would use – is the final option left to fix leachate and gas problems that Landfill Manager Tami Craig explained to the commission during their June 8 regular session.

She said ongoing leachate and gas leaks coming out of that side of the slope are expected to come under control with the proposed fix, that would tie in liners already at the bottom of the slope to one on top, and with the addition of a soil cap on top should allow trash already in that section of the landfill to settle and create lost airspace.

The hope is with the cap, the addition of more gas collection wells and the proper leachate drainage with the semi permanent cap that after a “significant amount of time” Craig said they’ll be able to peel back the cap and reclaim airspace.

Additionally, Craig said that with the capping solution proposed and approved by the commission, the landfill won’t have to go any higher than its current levels.

However when it came to GFL’s second request of the evening for a 180 day test of using an alternate daily cover of a foam solution called RusFoam, the commission decided to stick with the soil cover required following a ruling in court between previous landfill operators Waste Industries and the County.

When it came before the board, the motion to deny was put forth by Commissioner Ray Carter and seconded by Commissioner Scotty Tillery in order for a longer discussion of the issue to occur.

What GFL sought was a six month test of the foam product, which would be applied daily as operations were coming to a close for the day. In clarifying what the board would have allowed if they approved, County Manager Matt Denton reported that if the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s regional office in Cartersville would be responsible for keeping track of the test.

If the test were to go well, then the EPD would have final say over whether it would stay permanently and not the County Commission. For the board, giving up the ability to be able to vote to keep the alternate daily cover after the test was just one of the deciding factors.

Carter had problems with how the foam would stand up to Polk County’s notorious shifting weather during many months of the year, and said he didn’t like the idea of the RusFoam being applied then having the opportunity to wash away while the landfill was closed for the night and no one was around to apply a second coat to avoid odor issues.

Tillery said that in the pictures he’d seen from the company of how the product is applied, all but two of the photos had birds of some kind in them. The Grady Road Landfill and surrounding homes was a haven for vultures who, at least in testimony provided amid the lawsuit later dropped by the county, caused real headaches for the operators and neighbors alike.

Craig did point out that during the past year, she had worked hard to ensure the county trusted that she was trying to do ensure that operations at the Grady Road Landfill have continued to improve in various areas and that if she found the product wasn’t effective she would cease to allow its use.

She also complained about the smell of the product, and said that if the foam were to be allowed that she would choose something more natural than the cinnamon scent that was provided as a sample.

The vote was unanimous to deny the test this evening.

However, it doesn’t mean GFL Environmental couldn’t propose the foam again. With more information in hand and results of how it has worked at other facilities, the Grady Road Landfill operators could come back to the commission to seek an alternate daily cover test again.

It will likely come back as the Grady Road Landfill will face one of the biggest challenges in the years to come: they’ll eventually run out of dirt to use as daily cover available on site, so long as the six inch soil cover remains in place on a continuing basis.

The goal of using something like the RusFoam is to be able to use up less space in the landfill on dirt, and provide more space for trash and extend the life of the facility before all the cells full and capped off. Once that happens, the Grady Road Landfill would then have to undergo continuous monitoring to ensure no gas or leachate leaks occur and get into groundwater or pollute the air with methane gas and the smell of rotting trash.

Overall, the discussions during the Commission session provided a positive outlook on operations at this time. Many of the problems of the past are being resolved. There has been a recent decrease in the number of loads per day needed to remove leachate from the site in tanker trucks, that the gas system issues are improving as more wells are added on the site, and most importantly the smells and vultures that were a prominent complaint among residents are being controlled.

Check back for regular updates on landfill operations. – KtE

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