By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

DEQ continues landfill investigation

After analyzing the first round of test results from creek sampling, Schwarz reported there are increased concentrations of some contaminants downstream compared to upstream.

“The samples do show some minor impact to the stream,” he said. “The numbers were low, but are definitely higher than they were in the unaffected portion of the creek.”

On the morning of Monday, Feb. 10, leachate was discovered seeping from the landfill in a check conducted 12.5 hours after an earlier check turning up nothing amiss. Officials said there is no way of knowing whether the seepage continued for minutes or hours. 

Schwarz said the three samples were collected upstream of the seepage, at the point leachate entered the creek, and downstream.

He said the samples collected were taken from roughly the same three locations to compare the concentrations have gone down.

“The relatively low concentrations of some contaminants are elevated. Are they going to stay elevated? That’s what the second round of tests will tell us,” he said.

Schwarz added the agency is expecting further results from samples collected Friday, Feb. 21, as well as a report to be prepared by the landfill’s consultant evaluating the chemical results, along with visual observations of ecological impacts.

“Unlike some of the other analytes tested, these (volatile organic compounds) do not occur in nature, and therefore are presumably entirely the result of the spill. None were detected in the upstream sample. One, acetone, was found at the spill location at a concentration of 16 parts per billion,” Schwarz said in an email. He said two of the chemicals found in the downstream sample were acetone and methyl ethyl ketone.

Both, he said, were found in “concentrations below safe levels for both humans and animals, even based on long-term exposure. We expect that these concentrations will dissipate fairly quickly because the landfill responded to the spill very quickly. However, we will see what the next round of samples tell us.”

Waste Management spokesperson  Jackie Lang said the company reported the incident to the state Department of Environmental Quality right away. She said it followed up by notifying the county Wednesday and the media Thursday.

“Whether we needed to report it or not, we don’t know yet,” she said of the DEQ filing last month.  “But our internal policy is to error on the side of caution.”

Waste Management plans to hold a public meeting to discuss the seepage and lab results Wednesday, March 19 at a location not yet determined. Pizza and an informal discussion begins at 6 p.m. and the meeting is at 7 p.m.

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