November 22, 2004 Dear City Council, The purpose of this letter is to ensure that the City Council has the most current information regarding municipal landfills. This information is critical in our efforts to maintain the integrity of our city. As the mayor of this fine town, I feel it is my duty to keep the citizens of Sullivan up to date with the most current information with regards to our city; as such I have researched landfills and compiled my findings here for your consideration. First and foremost, the construction of a new landfill is a decision which must not be entered into lightly. Many of our citizens may not even fully understand what a municipal landfill is, let alone the pros and cons of allowing the construction of one in our city.
Most people, when thinking of something such as a landfill may envision what is more accurately called a dump. A dump is a place where people randomly and carelessly throw unwanted debris without regard to consequence. I, for one, would never allow a dump in Sullivan. Thankfully, there is a stark difference between a landfill and a dump and I would like to begin with a discussion of what a landfill is. A landfill is a carefully designed cavity in the ground into which wastes are deposited.
The design is implemented in such a manner that there is no connection between the waste and the environment surrounding the waste. The greatest focus of the design of a landfill is placed on the avoidance of any hydrologic connectivity between the waste and the environment, or, more precisely, the groundwater. Another highlight included in the careful design is that municipal landfills are specifically cared for so that odors do not permeate the area, and so that rodents and the like are not drawn. Another important aspect of what a municipal landfill is would be what can be contained in it. According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Municipal Solid Waste Landfills (MSW LFs) accept the majority of items that we commonly throw out and place on the curb for daily trash pickup, yard debris, construction / demolition materials, and some non-hazardous waste produced industrially. This definition is supported by Indiana's Title 329 IAC 10-2-115 "Municipal Solid Waste" and Title 329 IAC 10-2-116 "Municipal Solid Waste Landfill." It is not uncommon for advocates of a landfill to claim that "no ill effects will occur as a result of the landfill" or that "the landfill will not pollute our natural resources." The citizens of Sullivan may have many reservations about allowing the construction of a municipal landfill in Sullivan County and these reservations are not without reason.
There are many negative aspects to explore and understand prior to this undertaking. The downfalls of a municipal landfill include such areas as environmental pollution, aesthetics, and risks to public health. Our greatest attention should be placed on the possible negative effects a landfill may have on our environment. Commonly the possible downfalls are grouped into the three areas of loose waste, methane, and leach ate. First, loose waste is any debris that may be able to easily transport with the wind and must be carefully covered by the waste management facility in order to stop the transportation of the waste. This is an issue because loose waste is generally the waste which attracts much unwanted rodents.
Second, methane is produced in large quantities at landfills due to the procedures used to contain the debris. Materials release methane as they are decomposing and the compaction that occurs in a landfill further increases the methane buildup. Methane buildup can lead to spontaneous combustion as well as the continuous release of displeasing odors in the area. Lustily, and by far the most feared pollution, is leach ate. The primary concern with the pollution of the environment is with the preservation of the safety of our precious ground and surface water sources. Leachate is the prime suspect in the pollution of our water sources.
It is a gooey substance that is produced when the waste materials are decomposing. Due to the sludgy wet nature of leach ate, it is very easy for it to permeate and find its way into our groundwater. Unfortunately, there have been many important studies conducted which have proven that even though municipal landfills are not legally receiving materials determined to be hazardous that the leach ate is nearly equally as dangerous as from a landfill that is specifically for the waste processing of hazardous materials. Another great concern is the aesthetics, or the appearance of a landfill. Many people grimace at the thought of what it might look like to have a landfill in their backyard and rightfully so. One can just imagine dirty, unsightly trucks rumbling around at all hours of the day transporting foul smelling materials to and fro.
Fortunately, with the proper planning this need not be an issue. The noise pollution caused by the trucks, the unsightly appearance of a 400-acre landfill, and the possibility of odors can all is controlled by passing the proper ordinances in order to limit these aesthetic sorts of disturbances. For example, it is well-known that property values tend to raise the farther away from a landfill the property is located so it would be wise to insure that the newly constructed landfill is not near a residentially zoned area. As citizens it is our duty to ensure that the construction of this land site is done to our specifications as well as to the federal guidelines. According to the Environmental Conservation Law, Article 27, we have the right to use our "police powers" to do just that. The best way to avoid all of the downfalls above is to understand the best procedure for constructing a sanitary municipal landfill.
In Indiana, Title 329 contains the majority of rules and regulations for the construction, proper design, and management of landfills. In addition, much of Indiana Title 329 is in unison with the federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. Implementing the proper design in correlation with the Indiana laws would yield safe, worry free municipal landfill site. The best method for said construction is as follows in accordance with Indiana Title 329 IAC 10-17-2 (please see attached photo for a greater understanding of the necessary construction process). One can think of a landfill like dressing for a chilly day - in layers.
The first layer must be three feet of an impermeable material such as clay. Impermeability is important as we previously discussed the importance of keeping leach ate from entering our groundwater sources. The second layer is heavy polyurethane (plastic) that again is impenetrable. The first and second layer together is called a composite layer. Thirdly, a system of leach ate collection pipes is laid.
Fourth, at least twelve inches of a looser material such as sand or gravel is included to assist the drainage of the leach ate. 12 inches of sand or gravel is added so that the leach ate can drain into the pipes. Finally, after all of this, a layer of waste can be disposed of here. Generally, the first layer is between eight and ten incest deep. The waste is compacted tightly and then covered with materials that prevent excessive odors from developing. The process of adding waste, compacting, and covering with six inches of soil / materials is repeated until the cell is considered full.
Then, there is another specific process for a full cell. The cell must be covered with a layer that can drain off the methane gas that occurs during decomposition and at least twenty-four inches of soil must be added, a plastic liner, some gravel or sand, and grass or other vegetation. Figure 3. This cross-section drawing shows the structure of a municipal solid waste landfill. The arrows indicate the flow of leach ate.
Aside from the possible negatives discussed, there are some upsides to the construction of the landfill. The positive aspects include the introduction of new jobs to our area and the possibility of financial expansion by utilizing our new landfill. As we are all aware, Sullivan is experiencing a slump in economics of late. Recently, many jobs were lost due to local plants abruptly closing. The unemployment rate of our county is higher than that of the state of Indiana as well as the United States as a whole. If we construct the new landfill as well as include a recycling facility along with it, then there would be an abundance of new jobs.
According to Brenda Platt, director of materials recovery for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the pairing of a recycling facility with a municipal landfill increases the possible jobs ten to one. Another way to encourage financial prosperity is the welcome the refuse of adjoining states. We must also take into consideration the geology of Sullivan County when making this decision as well. Indiana Title 329 IAC 10-16-9, 329 IAC 10-16-6, and IAC 10-16-8 must be taken into consideration prior to the construction of the landfill. Sullivan is located on the Bassoon Aquifer and according to Indiana Title 329 a landfill cannot be located on an aquifer unless there is at least a ten foot impenetrable layer between the aquifer and the landfill. In addition, coal mining is one of Sullivan's greatest resources which have left some mines in the area and, again, according to Indiana Title Codes no landfill may be constructed over underground mines.
Finally, Sullivan may have some Karst terrain and that is also included in the Title 329's listed above as a potential hazard for constructing a landfill. In closing, Sullivan has considered contracting with Rumpke for the construction of the new municipal landfill. Rumpke could not be a better choice as they have an outstanding track record for customer service. Rumpke was founded in 1932 by Bernard Rumpke and has been in a family business since then. They are the eleventh largest waste disposal and recycling company in the United States. The company is not perfect and has had a few problems in the past, but did not shirk their responsibilities in making the situation right.
Rumpke's landfills are well-kept and the vehicles associated with the process are well cared for. In fact, the vehicles are scrubbed daily and the hours of operation are within normal business hours so that there is not noise pollution to contend with. The lawn surrounding the facility is guaranteed to not be offensive to passers-by. Sullivan County could not have chosen a better contractor should we choose to give the go-ahead to a municipal landfill. In closing, I would like to offer some information where you might find more information: o United States Environmental Protection Agency (202) 272-0167 web Indiana Department of Environmental Management (800) 451-6027 web National Solid Waste Management Association (202) 244-4700 web of Sullivan, I thank you for your time and know that by working together with Rumpke and within the federal guidelines, we can keep our town as beautiful as it is today. I know you will make the right choice in this matter..