Citizens' Advisory Committee tours Conestoga Landfill, hears progress report

The Conestoga Landfill. Photo courtesy of the EPA

Environmental Engineer Gene Bonner took members of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Conestoga Landfill on a guided tour of the Landfill in a GMC Denali. During the challenging and bumpy ride, recent construction was in full view.

The rubbish depository areas in the landfill are divided into cells. Each cell has a multi-layer lining that prevents contamination of the underground water from leakage.

Cell 22, which was on our right and is now finished, will provide enough space to deposit rubbish for three years. Cell 17, which is under construction, was on the left. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has to approve the construction of each cell.

At present, 1,900 to 2,000 tons of rubbish is sent to the Conestoga Landfill daily. While construction continues, loads of rubbish are being diverted to the Western Berks Landfill, Modern Landfill in York and the Tullytown Landfill in Bucks County.

On the rugged trip, we passed a new flair constructed of concrete, which is about 10 feet in diameter. The flair complements two flairs in the older section of the landfill. They burn off extra methane gas, which is not used by Granger Energy. Methane gas is generated by decaying rubbish in the landfill.

Ganger Energy is processing and selling all of the gas they can get from the landfill. Because of construction, it is impossible to collect all gas produced from the landfill. L&S Sweeteners and Dart Container, users of processed methane, have put in gas-fired turbines to generate electricity. The pipeline from the Granger plant at the Conestoga Landfill joins a similar pipeline from the Lanchester Landfill at Blue Ball. The gas provides energy for seven users in the New Holland and Leola areas.

A 36 inch pipe carries about 7,000 cubic feet per minute of landfill gas to Granger Energy, located along Shiloh Road on the west side of Route 76. By the end of 2013 the installation of a 36 inch pipeline will reach 7,000 feet around half of the landfill to transport methane gas to Granger.

Despite the large volumes of gas produced at the landfill, there is simply no way Conestoga can satisfy the high demand, Bonner said.

Construction of the new leachate treatment plant will be completed in October of 2014. Completion will take 14-15 months. It will be located along Quarry Road on the extreme eastern side of the landfill. The treated leachate will enter the Conestoga Creek near the Morgan Corporation. The old tanks will be demolished.

For the last three months, little radioactive material has been received at the landfill, said Bonner. There have only been traces of radioactive materials in two loads monthly. Most anything described as radioactive is some type of medical waste. Radioactive material disintegrates rapidly.

Overweight trucks average two a month. There have been few complaints of odors because more wells have been drilled where methane gas is collected. Bonner said a lot of money has been put in the gas collection system. If the air temperature remains steady there are less odors produced. During stormy weather, wet conditions and periods of temperature changes, there are more odors coming from the landfill.

Bonner said 12 acres on the original landfill are being capped. Some areas of the original landfill have settled 21 feet. Management would like to refill those areas up to the permitted height but it is too expensive and difficult to remove the permanent landfill cover.

All landfill activities at the landfill are closely monitored by the D.E.P. for safety and attention to state regulations.

The next meeting is on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. All meetings are open to the public. They are held at the landfill office off of Shiloh Road. The phone number is 610-286-6844.