Citizen's Advisory Committee tours Conestoga Landfill

The Conestoga Landfill Citizenís Advisory Committee held one of its four annual meetings at the landfill offices along Quarry Road on September 20 to discuss issues of concern about the landfill as related to the surrounding community. At the meeting members of the Advisory Committee, made up from representatives of community organizations, were led on a tour of the Conestoga Landfill by Lee Zimmerman (Division Manager for Republic Services, the owner of the Conestoga Landfill).

During the tour Zimmerman explained the details of all features to members of the Citizenís Advisory Committee. Accompanying the group in the van tour was Gene Bonner, Environmental Manager. Zimmerman emphasized Bonnerís expertise in designing the intricate system of wells from which methane gas is pumped from the landfill. Bonner is also responsible for the design of the leachate system at the landfill.

During the tour Zimmerman pointed to several of the 29 new methane gas extraction wells located in the new 154 acre area of the landfill. The new area contains cells 15 to 26. Each cell is built on an impervious base liner system as mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. This polyethylene liner protects the ground water from any contamination.

By the end of next month, the gas system in the new section of the landfill will be connected to the original system with a 36 inch polyethylene pipe. All of the methane gas is processed by Granger Energy, located along Shiloh Road, just west of Route 176. Granger removes much of the foreign matter from the methane gas before it is pumped through a pipeline to the Blue Ball area where it joins with a pipe line from the Lanchester Landfill. All of the processed methane gas is used to power boilers or generate electricity in the New Holland and Leola Area. Tyson foods, Fluer díLait, New Holland Concrete, Dart Container and L&S Sweeteners use the gas. Dart has installed two electric generators which are powered by methane gas.

Zimmerman said the gas related projects cost $1.6 million dollars in 2012. Methane gas is measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM. The income to the Conestoga Landfill for the sale of methane gas is about $15,000 a month.

ďIt is not a lot of dollars,Ē said Zimmerman.

The two gas flares are intended to burn off extra gas on weekends and in case a user stops using gas. Zimmerman pointed to a mechanism which separates much of the moisture out of the gas on the trip to Granger. Raw methane gas is forced through a 36 inch in diameter and 18 foot deep circular like pipe and slammed against the sides at 45 degree angles. This process forces out large drops of moisture.

When leachate accumulates to a depth of 30 or more inches on the landfill liner it is pumped out to the leachate treatment plants where it is filtered through a process of reverse osmosis. The treated water flows into the Conestoga Creek.

They are starting construction of cell 22 which will be completed in 2013. Now rubbish is being dumped in cell 20 which covers about 13.6 acres and refilling cell 13 on top of the original landfill area. Zimmerman explained if even a wheel barrow of rubbish is dumped in a new cell, the water contained in the cell is considered leachate. In order to prevent rain water being termed as leachate they use a rain flap to turn away storm water. An inch of rain on seven acres will generate 250,000 gallons of leachate.

The tour took attendees to the top of the landfill where the City of Reading was very visible.

Dirt or a material obtained from grinding up the interior of old cars called ďfluffĒ is used to cover the working area of the landfill each night. No trash of any kind was visible anywhere. The security gates close at 5 p.m. and open at 3:30 a.m. A security guard patrols the landfill area when the gates are closed. During the night the security guard travels the roads at the perimeter of the landfill to determine if there are any odors reaching outside the landfill. Misting systems using a commercial deodorizer are used along Shiloh Road and Route 176. In winter a system using air pressure spreads a deodorant.

The scales and tire wash have been relocated to a new location on Conestoga Way. It is estimated that, in about four years, the offices and the truck repair garage will also be relocated to the same space.

A 30 foot berm has been built along Shiloh Road with a permanent litter fence. In 2013 they are planning to permanently cap a 12 acre section on top of the old landfill. They intend to fill in areas where the trash has settled first. At present the Conestoga Landfill is accepting from 2000 to 2100 tons of trash daily, said Zimmerman.

Bonner said relocating the maintenance shop and the offices near the scale house will be a tight situation. There is less trash than 10 to 15 years ago, as people recycle more. Large containers are available for recycling plastic and aluminum and tin cans.

A trash incinerator in Chester generates enough electricity for 40,000 homes, said Bonner. To use a generator efficiently, a densely populated area is needed. Incineration reduces the volume by 90%. About 30% of the resulting weight is ash.

Varying small amounts of waste comes from Connecticut, Delaware Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Virginia. Local counties sometimes sending rubbish to the Conestoga landfill are Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Columbia, Dauphin, Delaware and Lackawanna. Other counties are Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill.

Usually there may be two complaints a month about odors. There may be two loads which trigger the radiation detector located at the main gate. About 4% of the trucks are overweight on a monthly basis. All activities at the landfill are carefully monitored by D.E.P. and monthly reports are required.