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King George Landfill is buzzing with activity as the amount of trash increases and workers undertake construction projects
Crews prepare to cap a 10-acre cell at the King George Landfill. More trash will be added before it is closed for good.
photos by PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Cue gave a slight warning, along with his updates. Workers have to tap into existing cells as they open the new area and close the old one. That means they'll expose areas that have high levels of hydrogen sulfide.
"Which means the release of an odor or two," he said. "None so far, but we'll keep our fingers crossed. We'll be vigilant and do this as quickly as we can."
One 10-acre cell is being capped, or covered permanently. Trash was dumped there until about six years ago, when the area was covered with dirt and left alone.
The trash settled so much there's room for more--about 96,000 tons more.
Workers are removing the dirt atop it so they can fill the cell. Then they'll cover it with about 2 feet of dirt.
"We are done with it at that point," Cue said. "We will plant grass on it, and it will be pretty. Well, I think it's pretty."
NEW CELL, OLD SMELL
Workers should finish capping the old cell by September, when a new seven-acre cell will be ready for trash. To prepare the new site, workers have to pull back the cover of the cell next to it. They have to weld the liner of the new cell, which covers the bottom, to the existing one.
Cue admits he was nervous approaching the area because it contains some of most potent smells in the landfill.
That's where most ash from a coal-fired plant in Alexandria had been dumped. The ash was treated with a process that is usually harmless, but when it decomposed and mixed with water and food waste, it created massive amounts of hydrogen sulfide.
State officials realized levels of the compound were 32 times higher in King George than in most landfills.
Workers installed misters--systems that shoot out giant streams of air fresheners, sort of like big cans of Febreze, Cue said.
And they put a thick cover over the offending areas. But because there are 211 tons of coal ash in the area, "The smell is going to be there for a while," he said.
And that leads to the other construction project at the landfill: a system of pipes, towers and microscopic organisms designed to eat up the odors.
USING 'UNION BUGS'