Jefferson landfill officially closes

July 09, 1997


Staff Writer

LEETOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Landfill, which the state determined was severely contaminating area groundwater six years ago, was officially closed Tuesday afternoon.

But some neighbors wonder if the problem has been laid to rest.

David Bell, 53, has lived next to the 76-acre landfill on Jefferson Orchard Road since it was built in the mid-1960s. One of the first Leetown residents to complain about the amount of industrial waste there, Bell said the landfill's closing is not enough.

"All they did was cover up the problem. It's still there," Bell said.

To prevent liquid from seeping through the trash and polluting groundwater, the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection authorized a Bluefield, Va., contracting company to seal the landfill, or cover it with a 36-inch clay cap and line it with geosynthetic clay.


"They laid it down like a rug," said Jim McGowen, co-chairman of the Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority, which had managed the landfill while it was in service.

"Then they put soil on top and some seeded grass. It actually looks nice now," he said.

Holding tanks were installed by the landfill to collect any leachate, a smelly, toxic mixture of water and trash, and haul it to a Maryland treatment facility.

The entire $3 million venture was the top priority and biggest undertaking of the Landfill Closure Assistance Program since it was created in 1993, said Jack Fleshman, environmental inspection supervisor for the state Division of Environmental Protection, which ordered the landfill closed in 1991.

"Sure, it kind of helped, but it's still a potential problem. The trash is still going to go down in the groundwater. And I'll probably be the first to go," said Bell, who lives 75 to 80 feet from the landfill.

He said he wished the state had followed through with its promise of building an earthen barrier that extends to the bedrock and separates the polluted landfill from the adjacent residences.

"They only went to the bedrock in some places," he said. "I know it would have been hard for them. It would have cost them more money, but they didn't do what they said they would.

"They wasted a lot of money for what they did. I think they blew it," he said.

The earthen barrier, area sinkholes and an above-ground entrapment system for leachate will not sufficiently prevent the 30 to 40 feet of trash in the covered landfill from filtering down to the groundwater and destroying surrounding private wells and springs, Bell said.

But the state does not foresee such problems.

"This should take care of any environmental concerns of the past," Fleshman said.

McGowen, however, agreed that a possibility of contamination still exists despite the landfill's closure.

But he said that monitoring wells have been established around the area and will be checked four times a year. Also, a Shepherd College environmental studies department program will be instituted to allow students to monitor water quality and leachate levels.

"From what I know, I'm as satisfied as can be. They did the best job that they could," said McGowen, who lives about a mile from the landfill and can see it from his farm.

A transfer station next to the closed area now collects household and industrial trash and ships it to landfills in Hedgesville, W.Va., and Pennsylvania.

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