Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

September 7, 2013

Fire biggest risk at landfill

Cause of slide still undetermined

PRINCESS — Fire is a concern at the Big Run Landfill in the wake of Wednesday’s slide.

The cause of the slide, which involved an estimated 800,000 tons of garbage and soil, is still being investigated.

 An initial report by The Independent that it occurred in an area of the facility that was actively accepting waste was inaccurate. Officials say the slide involved a cell that had been closed for many years.

The landfill in the Boyd County community of Princess is operated by River Cities Disposal, a subsidiary of EnviroSolutions Inc. Despite the slide, the landfill remains open.

Fire is a major concern because previously buried waste is now exposed to oxygen, said Scott Cunningham, region vice president of ESI. Cunningham said workers are actively covering the exposed waste to mitigate the risk and are monitoring the site. Contact has also been made with local fire officials to make them aware of the situation, he said.

According to Cunningham, the slide occurred at the landfill’s original cell, which faces northwest toward U.S. 60. That portion of the landfill was closed about 10 years ago, he said.

The accident occurred just before 10 a.m. Wednesday and no workers were injured. ESI immediately alerted state regulators, who responded to the scene from Frankfort.

Early estimates are the slide involved approximately eight acres containing some 800,000 tons of trash and soil. A survey to determine the exact area and amount of tonnage is in progress, according to Cunningham.  The cause is also still under investigation.

“The first couple of days, the most important thing is to stabilize the area and contain runoff and any emissions, odor those types of things,” said Cunningham.

“We’re focusing now on ongoing monitoring, but also getting the facts that we need ... and developing a correction action plan,”  he said.

ESI employees and outside consultants are working to investigate the cause of the slide, said Cunningham, noting officials expect a “combination of factors.”

The cell “shifted pretty much intact. It shifted as a group rather than collapsing,” said Cunningham.

Slides of this nature are not unheard of, he said, noting several have occurred in the last decade in Ohio and Kentucky.

Officials are also assessing the landfill’s liner and other infrastructure designed to contain the waste and byproducts created by the breakdown of garbage. Early indications are the liner slid with the waste and the landfill’s leachate system remained intact.  The methane collection system is still being assessed, said Cunningham.

Methane is a flammable gas is created in a landfill as waste decomposes. It is collected and flared. Leachate is a liquid that moves through or drains from a landfill. It is collected, removed and treated.

State regulators remained on the scene and were working with company officials to assess and address any environmental concerns, said  Robert Francis, manager of the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Response Team.

Francis characterized landfill officials as highly cooperative. “They have been doing great; everything we have asked plus more,” he said.

He confirmed landfill officials are actively working to mitigate both fire and runoff concerns. DEP officials said Friday waste had moved approximately 400 feet beyond the landfill’s liner.

“The company is actively working on trying to get that covered so that we drop the fire potential,” he said, adding, “They have built containment, so if they do have runoff now that the site is open, they have taken steps to contain it.”

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or at cstambaugh@dailyindepedent.com.

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