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Pa. landfill growing with expansion

May 19, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

UPTON, Pa. - Mountain View Reclamation, a 55-acre landfill off of Pa. 16, holds about 30 years worth of trash from three states but has a month to go before it's filled to capacity.

"Every day is counting now," said John Wardzinski, general manager of the landfill.

Since the beginning of the year, about 55 workers have been constructing the first 6.5-acre section, known as a cell, of the planned 72-acre landfill expansion. The project is expected to be completed in June in time to take on the non-stop influx of waste.

The expanded landfill, one of two in Franklin County, is estimated to be able to hold 10 to 12 years worth of trash at the current dumping quota of 1,850 tons a day, six days a week, Wardzinski said.

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When that's filled, the company will expand again on its 540-acre property, Wardzinski said.

"We'll have to go through the whole permitting process again," he said.

Construction and installation of the multi-layer synthetic liner of one 6.5-acre cell costs about $2.5 million. The entire 72-acre landfill expansion is estimated to cost nearly $30 million.

The landfill provides 61 jobs and adds about $3.5 million a year to the local economy in salaries and purchases of supplies. An additional $500,000 is paid to Montgomery and Antrim townships and to the county, and $770,000 is paid to the state.

Non-hazardous household and industrial waste comes to Mountain View Reclamation from a 100-mile radius reaching parts of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Modern landfills, including Mountain View, have become technology-based waste management centers due to stringent government environmental regulations, unlike the earlier days of unregulated trash dumps.

In the 1970s, an individual began accepting trash from the public at the Upton site, which was literally an unprotected hole in the ground, Wardzinski said.

It was later sold to a company that began the expensive process of turning the trash dump into an acceptable landfill by excavating the site and transfering the trash into a lined area.

In 1989, Waste Management Inc. took over finishing the work that had been started, including moving two million tons of solid waste into lined pods in late 1992.

"There is no unlined trash at this landfill," Wardzinski said.

Almost immediately, the company began expansion plans, which were submitted to the state in 1992. Four years of tests and permitting by the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other state and local government boards followed before the plans were approved late last year.

"We had to do the expansion or we would've been closed," Wardzinski said, a concept that would've been favorable to some.

Several Antrim Township residents opposed the landfill expansion, claiming their property values and quality of life would suffer.

A group eventually formed, called ARAGE, Antrim Residents Against Garbage Expansion, that led a campaign against the expansion by circulating petitions and protesting at public hearings.

Among the complaints cited by residents included noxious odors, blowing trash, truck traffic, filthy roads and dusty air from the landfill. Residents also said they feared groundwater contamination.

Waste Management and the township ended up reaching a compromise that included extending some benefits to residents, like free trash disposal.

Building and lining an area big enough and strong enough to hold hundreds of thousands of tons of trash is no small undertaking.

In addition, federal and state regulations require the installation of gas and ground water monitoring wells throughout the site. The collection and treatment of leachate, the liquid materials that come in contact with solid waste, is also standard, as is the collection of water runoff into sediment basins.

Routine methane gas monitoring is performed as well as quarterly tests on the ground water.

Before a new landfill cell is started and the liner installed, a series of tests determines the placement at a minimum of eight feet above groundwater level.

Once the base is established, a six-inch layer of clay and existing soil is then excavated and compacted to minimize settlement.

The liner system itself is made up of 10 different materials layered on top of each other to prevent any outside contamination, Wardzinski said.

The layers include two polyethylene liners, several fabric-type materials that provide cushion and protection between layers, a "geo net" that acts as a drainage layer, and a clay layer that expands and acts as a "plug" for leachate.

A series of pipes to collect leachate are installed near the top, surrounded by a layer of coarse drainage gravel. An 18-inch covering of fine gravel is the final layer. The liner is then inspected before trash is dumped.

A similar type of lining system is used in the landfill's capping process.

Each trash collection truck that arrives at the landfill must first be registered and weighed at the scale house at the entrance. No hazardous waste or liquid waste is accepted.

Once the trash is dumped, it's leveled out and compacted with special equipment. At the end of each day, the trash is covered with six inches of soil and paper pulp.

"Our focus is, if we do not conduct the operation in such a way as to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents, then we wouldn't be here," Wardzinski said.

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