Persistent rain in the High Country this week caused a build-up of contaminated water at the Ashe County landfill.
“It’s beginning to recede,” said Ashe County Environmental Services (ACES) Director Scott Hurley. “We’re hauling six tanker truck loads per day.”
Hurley said the rain has been a problem this year because a new rubber-lined cell at the landfill had not yet been filled with garbage, and was instead filling with water. “We had six inches in January and four inches this week,” he said.
Rain collecting in the empty cell has risen high enough to overflow across an adjacent section filled with garbage and covered with topsoil, resulting in a pond of several hundred thousand gallons of black, smelly hazardous material called leachate.
Under normal circumstances, leachate from the landfill flows into a rubber-lined lagoon where it is held until it can be pumped into tanker trucks and transfered to local municipal water treatment facilities, Hurley said.
But the large volumes of leachate this year been too much for local facilities, he said. Each tanker is hauling away 5,200 gallons, for a total of 31,200 gallons per day.
“Jefferson can’t handle it,” said Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell. “When (the lagoon) gets too high, we have to haul it to Wilkesboro and Winston-Salem,” she said.
Some of the hauling is done by ACES, and some is done by environmental contractors, she said.
In January, heavy rains soaked the landfill with three times more water than the half-a-million gallon lagoon was designed to handle. With contractors charging $750 per load to haul leachate, ACES purchased a tanker trailer to cut costs, eventually hauling 83 loads themselves.
Some of the excess leachate is cycled back through the landfill in an effort to keep costs down, Hurley said. Leachate is put back into cells already filled with garbage, taking some time to seep through the cell and back the lagoon, and helping the buried garbage decompose in the process.
In addition to the landill’s $800,000 annual operating costs, ACES has spent about $118,000 handling excess leachate this year, Hurley said.
“Getting rid of people’s garbage is a very expensive proposition,” Mitchell said.