Special Report: Landfills
Republic Has Long Tried to Contain the Effects of the Bridgeton Landfill Fire

Republic Has Long Tried to Contain the Effects of the Bridgeton Landfill Fire

Last week, we examined the ongoing legal issues in regards to the Bridgeton landfill in Missouri. This week, Waste360 takes a look at the operational challenges that have come into play at the site.

The operational challenges involving the Bridgeton landfill in Missouri didn’t begin with the class action lawsuit filed in 2013. In fact, Republic Services has already invested more than $125 million to control the impacts of the pyrolysis at Bridgeton.

In recent months, Republic has added a new odor-neutralizing technology that uses a vaporizing system to neutralize odor-causing molecules by seeking out, attaching to and eliminating lighter and faster molecules, says Russ Knocke, director of public affairs for Republic Services, parent company of Bridgeton Landfill. It complements a synthetic liner system that covers the South Quarry and portions of the North Quarry and the substantially upgraded gas and leachate collection systems, as well as the existing water-based misting and atomizing systems. The new system was completed in December and consists of approximately 1,300 feet of tubing set approximately 10 feet above ground.

The landfill also implemented a cloud-based app to collect and analyze daily odor data in September following an announcement, Knocke says. Republic has met or exceeded all of the state’s odor-reduction and air-monitoring deadlines, and opened a 24-hour operation within the new leachate pretreatment plant. The plant is designed to remove certain constituents in leachate, and currently treats approximately 114,000 gallons of leachate per day—about half of the leachate generated within the site each day. The system is designed to comfortably accommodate 100 percent of the landfill’s leachate output, with a capacity of approximately 300,000 gallons per day or nine million gallons per month. The plant will reach full processing capacity in the coming months as operations progressively increase.

The elaborate system includes tanks specially designed to mix leachate to an even consistency, separate solids from liquids, aerate the leachate, and treat it with plant-based microorganisms before approved discharge to the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District. The pretreatment plant is equipped with a system of odor-neutralizing thermal oxidizers, which remove odors from exhaust air generated during the pretreatment process.

In September, Bridgeton also expanded a one-year pilot program that will use cooling lines to extract heat from the landfill’s subsurface. The Alternative Heat Extraction Pilot Study involves the installation of closed-loop cooling lines within six gas interceptor wells in the “neck” of the Landfill, between the North Quarry and South Quarry, as well as 11 temperature monitoring probes in the vicinity of these wells to measure heat extraction in the area.

More demands

Despite these improvements, the state asked a St. Louis circuit court to issue a temporary restraining order against the landfill’s operators. The state cited data received Dec. 23, 2014 that indicated the possible development of a subsurface fire in the North Quarry area of the landfill, at or near some radiologically impacted materials.

But Republic officials say in court documents that Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office jumped the gun with its emergency motion request, stating that the previous court agreement calls for meetings with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to work out issues at the landfill.

Beginning Jan. 2, the state requested weekly reports of down-hole temperature readings from several specified gas extraction wells in the North Quarry, plus monthly reports beginning Jan. 20 of carbon monoxide data. Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also reported that the air quality around the site is similar to the rest of the region. The state also wanted landfill operators to install two additional temperature monitoring probes in the North Quarry and to install slope monitoring stakes to track settlement.

Court records indicate that the landfill failed to provide any data as of Jan. 2, and sent a letter formally declining to comply with the state’s demands, which Koster and the MDNR argue “are imperative to assessing whether there is a threat to public health and environment developing in the North Quarry.

The EPA also announced Jan. 15 that it would seek additional mapping of radioactive contamination at Bridgeton Landfill. The announcement is a contradiction to earlier EPA assertions that radioactive waste from the neighboring West Lake Landfill—where waste from uranium processing was illegally dumped four decades ago—was contained within its boundaries. EPA is now asking Republic—as well as the U.S. Department of Energy and Exelon Corp.—to design a testing program for radioactive waste in the northern portion of the Bridgeton Landfill.

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