SWACO Opts Out of Closed Landfill Golf Course

SWACO Opts Out of Closed Landfill Golf Course

A golf course built atop a former landfill near Columbus, Ohio, has been closed due to disagreements over how an outside company was maintaining the site. The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) decided to not run the course.

The Phoenix Links Golf Course in Jackson Township, Ohio, was built on top of the former Model Landfill. The landfill was opened by Jackson County in 1967 and was closed in 1985. In 1989, SWACO took control of site. A decade later, in 1999, SWACO entered into a lease agreement with Phoenix Golf Links, Ltd./Petro Environmental to build, maintain and operate a golf course on top of the former landfill and to manage the landfill gas system.

The golf course opened in 2000 and, for a while, provided an environmentally friendly and fiscally beneficial use for the former landfill, all while protecting its cap. But the agreement soured when methane leaks were discovered due to the golf course’s alleged lack of maintenance to the landfill gas system.

In 2012, SWACO filed suit against Phoenix Golf Links and asked the court to end its lease agreement with the company. SWACO said in the suit that the termination of the lease was necessary so that it could fix the landfill gas system that Phoenix allegedly didn’t maintain properly.

Methane leaks were first detected at a single gas probe off-site, says Kyle O’Keefe, director of innovation and programs for SWACO. Methane gas is typically found at landfills—a byproduct of the decomposing waste. At high levels, methane gas could be explosive, but O’Keefe says the leaks at this site had no impact on the course or the golfers.

Still, work had to be done, ad both SWACO and Phoenix disagreed over who was responsible for the work, according to court records. The suit was settled in 2014, with SWACO buying Phoenix out of its 30-year lease for roughly $2 million in exchange for full control of the golf course and landfill site.

Rather than become a golf course operator itself, SWACO then decided to close the golf course, which took effect at the end of last season. It will now work on a gas remediation project, which includes installing additional wells to the landfill gas system to take care of any migration problems, O’Keefe says. He says SWACO will continue to maintain and monitor the closed landfill.

As for future plans, O’Keefe says gas remediation is the top priority and, only after that is complete, will SWACO begin to investigate other uses for the former landfill site.

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