Conestoga Landfill makes improvements as it grows

The biggest source of activity at the Conestoga Landfill at this time is work on the new leachate treatment plant, said Manager Lee Zimmerman at a recent meeting with members of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee.

Foundations have been built for five tanks near Quarry Road, the original entrance to the landfill. Intentions are to get the accessory building under roof as quickly as possible so technicians can install related controls and apparatus. Landfill officials hope the entire project will be done by March 15. Glitches in the system will be worked out by July, when the system will be fully functioning.

The new leachate treatment plant will replace the one in use near the office building off of Shiloh Road. Along the way there have been many problems in getting an effective system and making it work. Any surface water that has any contact with rubbish is considered leachate and must be treated. Zimmerman told members of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee that treated leachate enters the north Branch of the Conestoga Creek near Morgan Corporation.

An inch of rain water on seven acres equals about 250,000 cubic feet of leachate, said Zimmerman. There will be two tanks, each holding about 1.2 million gallons of leachate. The new treatment technology to be used at the treatment plant is known as a membrane bioreactor. It blends old and new technologies and relies on microbes to break down the solid material.

When using the membrane bioreactor system, it is important to keep the microbes healthy and contained where they have to work. The former system, known as reverse osmosis, was not reliable. The new system also spins the water out of the sludge and partially dries it. The sludge left from reverse osmosis had to be disposed of offsite.

Parts for a 13 ½ foot flare will be coming from Tulsa, Okla. It will be placed next to an existing flare. The flares burn off extra methane gas. Zimmerman said on the trip from Oklahoma to Morgantown, the driver had to meander through the country somewhat because of road and bridge height restrictions. The flare being transported here is 66 feet in length. The driver is not allowed to drive at night and can only work for 11 hours a day. He is accompanied by a flagger vehicle for safety purposes. The flares will be operating by April.

Environmental Engineer Gene Bonner said in the future the 36 inch in diameter pipe and 7,000 foot long methane gas pipeline will circumvent the landfill following Shiloh Road to Granger Energy. Republic Services, owner of the Conestoga Landfill, will have spent $16 million on leachate treatment. Cell 22 is being filled with waste. New gas wells are being drilled in Cell 20. 2013 was a big year in capital improvements. There will be less activity in 2014.

There are lots of projects you cannot rush, said Zimmerman. Bonner agreed that doing things right may take more time. In the near future the management will consider moving the office building and the truck maintenance building to another location closer to the entrance on Conestoga Way.

The south east corner of the original section of the landfill is the only area not permanently capped, said Zimmerman. Eventually that area will be filled and be connected to the new area to the southeast. With the rate of rubbish coming to the landfill, a new cell will not be needed for three to four years.

Haines & Kibblehouse contractors broke three bits drilling through rock on Shiloh Road. About 300,000 cubic yards of boulder have been excavated. There is a concern of what to do with them. Crushing them as each cell is developed would not be economical for the contractor, said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said recently Waste Management got the contract for removing most of Philadelphia’s rubbish. A new technology is being used to manufacture a type of pellet from trash that has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is burned as fuel and is said to create the same heat as burning coal. A new plant in the Lehigh Valley is now manufacturing the pellets. The technology has been used in Japan, Sweden and Germany and has been used here for two years.

The Conestoga landfill has 34 employees, said Zimmerman. It is difficult to determine how much the Conestoga Landfill contributes to the local economy. All of the employees are local residents and spend money locally. Landfill management intends to buy parts and supplies needed at the landfill locally. Trash haulers recruit new employees from Penn College in Williamsport.

The Conestoga Landfill is not hiring at this time, said Zimmerman. Employees tend to stay with the company. A local Girl Scout Troop recently had a tour of the landfill with information provided on how the waste stream is managed. Zimmerman said he was invited to Conestoga Christian School to hold a seminar on the landfill management and the benefits of recycling.

Small amounts of rubbish come to the Conestoga Landfill from Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Virginia. The majority comes from the local Pennsylvania counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Columbia, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, Northampton and Schuylkill Counties.

The average daily tonnage is 1,600. Over a three month time there was one complaint from a local source. The average daily number of trucks is about 122. Two trucks per month trigger the radiation detector. On average, two trucks per month are overweight.

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