Extra precipitation causes rise in leachate

ATLANTA -An early spring snowstorm coupled with heavy rain recently has taken a toll on the Montmorency-Oscoda-Alpena Solid Waste Authority budget.

Because of the wet conditions the landfill in Atlanta has seen an increase in the amount of leachate being generated and as a result has had to have it hauled and treated more frequently. So far this year the authority has spent $99,000 to pay to have the polluted water transported from the landfill to the water treatment plant in Alpena, and an additional $58,700 to have it treated. Even though at this point the cost of dealing with the leachate has exceeded early estimates, Administrator Sandy Cunningham and the commissioners believe money will be saved in the coming months, as the weather warms and evaporation takes place in the lagoons and cells.

“We’re going to get into our comfort zone soon, but next week we will again haul five loads a day with the four-day work week,” Cunningham said. “We will be recirculating 10 loads a day back through the cell and that will help minimize hauling and treatment for the rest of the summer. I’m confident we will be back in our budgeted area as the summer moves on.”

The struggle to contain the cost associated with leachate is nothing new at the landfill. The installation of the lagoons and a forcemain system have helped to reduce costs, as well as the recirculation procedure. Aerators and fountains also have been installed in the ponds to help with evaporation. Alpena County Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said even though the numbers so far this year aren’t pretty, the work done in the past has saved the landfill a lot of money.

“We made significant upgrades about three years ago with the lagoons and forcemain and those two things and the decision to spend more than $1.2 million do them were huge and have worked out great for us,” VanWormer said.

The landfill is about to embark on a new project that could help reduce the amount of leachate needed to be treated. As an experiment it is going to plant 100 poplar trees, which will consume the water. If the trees survive the mild pollutants in the leachate, it could lead to more trees being planted and potentially larger savings.

“We are aware of some technology out there where they plant the hybrid poplar trees for absorbtion. They are proven to absorb a tremendous amount of water,” Cunningham said. “We are going to do it at a small scale with 100 trees and plant them inside the active landfill, so there is no special permitting needed. all that was required was I needed to amend our leachate circulation plan and that was approved. We also received verbal approval from the DEQ. We’ll do the pilot study, see how the trees survive and if it works we can look into adding another 100 or however many more we want.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.