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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There Is A Ghost Lurking In The County’s Closet

A potentially costly result from actions of the past….

By Sid Riley

There is a lurking danger that hangs like a dark cloud of potential reprisal over commission meetings on any occasion in which it is mentioned. You can sense the fear and dread which permeates the meeting room as the dreaded words are spoken…. “E.P.A.”… “Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection”…”Ground Water Contamination”…. “Immediate remedial actions”…… “Liability”…and “Jackson County East Landfill”.

The old landfill is located a few miles past Blue Springs as you travel East toward Dellwood on the Blue Springs Highway. The landfill was opened in 1979, and was operated by the county until 1991. At that time the huge Springhill Landfill near Campbellton was built and began operations by Waste Management. The old landfill was then sealed to be hopefully forgotten.

Then in 2003, armed with new, stricter environmental regulations, the DEP forced the county to begin groundwater testing at drill sites around the old dump. These revealed that seepage was entering the underground water system from the site. A regular program of testing in monitoring was established. The DEP ordered the county to install a water treatment process which would have cost approximately $20,000,000. The only other option presented at that time was excavation of the entire site, which would have resulted in a cost estimated between $30,000,000 and $50,000,000 for the county.

The county stalled, desperately looking for alternative solutions as they negotiated and corresponded with the DEP. Meanwhile, the testing continued to show some seepage was occurring.

At Tuesday’s meeting there was a glimmer of hope. John Catches and Tom Brown, representatives of Jones-Edmunds company in Gainesville, Fl, made a presentation to the Board. Their company is the company which has been conducting the ongoing testing at the site, and they were commissioned by the board to seek alternate solutions.

They have analyzed the situation and researched similar situations in Florida and in other states. They feel that the water treatment system initially proposed by DEP several years ago has since proven to be a costly, and largely ineffective remedy at other locations. However, they feel that the contamination is primarily being caused by underground gasses being emitted from the site and then coming into contact with the underground water system.

Thus, if the gasses can be vented and controlled, the water contamination would be diminished to an acceptable level….they theorize. They proposed a system which utilizes multiple vents which are bored into the site, combined with a vacuum system to suck the methane gases out of the old dump. If this process provides a solution, the results will be detectable in a very short period of time. Hopefully they are correct.

The Commissoners approved $32,384 in initial expenditures to get this system started.

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