Jefferson waste water treatment facility open to garbage water

By Alan Bulluck

May 29, 2014

Jefferson’s waste water treatment facility will start accepting garbage contaminated water, also known as leachate, from the Ashe County sanitary landfill, on a limited, trial basis.

The Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a tentative plan to accept leachate from the landfill at their regular meeting, Tuesday, May 27.

Leachate is water that includes dissolved contaminants that slips through trash and pools at the bottom of landfills. It is considered a groundwater contaminate by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I think it’s worthwhile to us as a town to explore this, not just as a way to assist the county and reduce some of their costs, but to generate some revenue of our own at the same time,” Tim Church, director of water resources for the town of Jefferson, said. “I’ve reached a point where I feel comfortable that we could probably accept a moderate amount on a trial basis.”

The town of Jefferson originally refused to accept leachate from the county’s landfill because of the strong levels of the substance that were being produced.

“When we initially tried that, this was a new process,” Church said. “The cells at the landfill had just been constructed and there hadn’t been time for adequate filtration and we were getting some fairly potent material. It was just something we felt jeopardized the ability of our plant to remain compliant.”

Leachate from the landfill is currently transported outside of the county on a 3,000 gallon tanker truck at $200 per load.

“They’re (landfill) currently trucking their leachate to Wilkesboro and it’s a great expense to them, not only the disposal costs but the transportation costs as well,” Church said. “They’re basically asking if we might reconsider our earlier decisions not to accept leachate.”

Church said that he and Scott Hurley, environmental services director for Ashe County, have been doing research on the quality of leachate being produced at the landfill and talking with some of the people who are treating the stuff.

“Since that time with the added cells and some of the construction they’ve done there, I think the quality of the leachate has improved quite a bit,” Church said.

Board member Mike Herman inquired as to how much revenue the new policy could possibly generate for Jefferson.

“I’m looking right now at a rate that would be pretty much in line with what we charge for septic, which is seven cents per gallon,” Church said. “I really don’t see it at this time increasing our treatment costs any, other than the pumping of it.”

The county would be responsible for monitoring the material that’s transported to the waste water treatment plant.

“This is something that would probably need to be monitored on a quarterly basis,” Church said.

Both the landfill and water treatment plant are running in good condition at the moment, according to Church, which is one of the main reasons he believes the time is now to give the plan the go ahead.

“Plants are running really good now,” Church said. “We certainly don’t want to jeopardize that in any way.”

After a brief discussion, the board vote to allow Church to work on a deal with the county on bringing leachate to the waste water treatment facility.

“If it doesn’t hurt the town’s quality of water or jeopardize our compliance, then we’ll continue it,” board member Mark Johnston, who made the motion to approve, said.

Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.