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Landfill owners hope to see gas from dump

February 19, 2002

Landfill owners hope to see gas from dump



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Every day 2,500 cubic feet of methane gas is drawn through a network of wells and pipes drilled into the Mountain View Reclamation landfill and wastefully burned off.

Now Waste Management, owner of the landfill on Letzburg Road, wants to sell the methane the landfill generates to a company that will build an on-site package power plant. Methane from the landfill would fuel a generator that would make electricity for sale to a utility company, said Mark E. Harlacker, division manager for Waste Management.

He said four Waste Management-owned landfills in Pennsylvania sell their methane gas. Another company-owned landfill in the state uses its methane to boil off the leachate that comes out of the landfill.

"There are a number of uses for landfill gas," Harlacker said. "Some is piped to industry for heat or to make steam. Methane is classified as green energy."

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Methane is a natural gas produced by decomposing garbage under the landfill cap. Not only garbage, but any decaying material including sewage sludge and composting heaps, give off methane gas in the decomposition process. Other gases such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide are also found in landfills.

Landfills are porous, said Dan Willner, environmental technician at the landfill. A series of wells are dug into the landfill at 150-foot intervals to collect the gas. The methane is then drawn into an eight-inch plastic piping system by blowers that create a vacuum, Willner said.

The first wells were sunk in the landfill in 1992, Harlacker said. Methane has been burned off since 1993. The flare that burns the gas never shuts off, Harlacker said.

The ground beneath the landfill, which opened in 1970, is protected by a double liner system. Waste Management owns about 520 acres with 120 acres permitted for use as a landfill.

Harlacker said 78 acres have been used for disposal so far. The company's permit runs through 2009. It was renewed last year.

The landfill takes in an average of 1,700 tons of waste a day. It has 11 employees.

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