Waste Management already is using the disposal industry’s best practices at the King George Landfill in its attempt to control odors, according to an independent consultant.

Its strategies “are generally as comprehensive as we’ve observed” at other landfills where there have been complaints, Bob Dick, vice president of SCS Engineers in Richmond, told the King George Board of Supervisors last week.

Still, SCS offered the county seven recommendations that Waste Management might employ to tone down the fumes for neighbors of the facility, which took in 1.7 million tons of trash last year.

Suggestions include: putting final covers over rotting trash sooner; using more pumps, wells and vacuums to capture landfill gases and leaching liquid; and additional monitoring to determine what’s causing foul smells and when.

County officials appreciated “having a third party come in to corroborate” what they’ve heard from Waste Management, said Supervisor Richard Granger, whose district includes the landfill.

During almost four years on the board, Granger has noticed that complaints come in cycles—and were especially numerous after last summer’s heavy rainfall. Fellow Supervisor Ruby Brabo ranks the odor issue in the top 10 of complaints during her almost eight years on the board.

“It has to be very tiresome for residents to always be contacting us to notify us that, once again, the smell is ruining their quality of life,” Brabo said.

One particularly damp and foggy day in January, the Fredericksburg Police Department sent out an alert about a “noxious outdoor smell that is similar to a gas leak” and said it was wafting from King George into the city. A second alert later rescinded the statement, saying the exact origin of the odor couldn’t be determined.

But the situation, along with ongoing complaints, prompted the county to pay a consultant $15,000 to take a good sniff—and to compare local practices with state and federal regulations. King George owns the land off State Route 3, but Waste Management oversees landfill operations.

County Administrator Neiman Young, who suggested the evaluation, said he was pleased to get some third-party answers to issues about which county officials don’t have the necessary expertise. The next step is sitting down with Waste Management to see which recommendations can be implemented.

“We want a deliberate plan instead of jumping on the table and saying, ‘We want this now,’ ” Young said, adding he wanted Waste Management to digest the SCS report and determine what additional measures would cost.

Waste Management officials will attend the Aug. 20 meeting of the King George Board of Supervisors to discuss the recommendations, said Lisa Kardell, Waste Management’s director of public affairs.

Dick, who has performed landfill gas engineering projects in more than 15 states and several foreign countries, said landfill smells come from three primary sources.

Trash is the biggie—and the King George Landfill can accept 10,000 tons of smelly fish scraps, dirty diapers and rotten fruit every day.

Leachate, the black fluid that oozes from trash, also is a contributor, and the landfill generates 140,000 gallons of it daily, according to SCS.

Then there’s landfill gases, mostly methane, that are the result of decomposing garbage. Waste Management has 360 components to collect it, on all but 10 acres of the 252 acres at the site covered with trash. Its units recover about 8,800 cubic feet per minute of landfill gas—about 80 percent what’s generated, according to Waste Management.

The uncollected gas, or “fugitive emissions,” as Dick called them, can put up a stink. That’s why two of the seven recommendations addressed ways to capture more, such as having pin wells in more shallow areas and around landfill edges.

According to state and national regulations, landfills have up to five years to dig wells to collect landfill gases after an area, or cell, is filled. Waste Management accelerates the process and takes action within two years—and some components are installed within six months, Dick told supervisors.

He suggested the landfill apply the same strategy by filling smaller areas sooner and capping them permanently.

“Do more and do it faster,” he said.

Dick also suggested Waste Management “go above and beyond the required monitoring” to sample for particular gases. Officials can use software that determines how smells are spreading beyond landfill borders and analyze, based on past complaints, when odor issues are likely to occur.

Brabo liked the idea of modeling software that suggests smells might be more likely when the wind blows a certain direction or the rain comes down.

“If folks know it’s coming, they’re not as upset as when they just walk outside and get smacked in the face with” the smell, she said.

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Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425 cdyson@freelancestar.com

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