April 09, 2020

Officials OK expansion of County landfill Clogged leachate system at issue

PRESQUE ISLE – Leaders from seven area towns are considering an $8 million project that would fix a clogging problem at the Presque Isle Landfill and extend the life of the site by 30 years, according to a solid waste official.

Nearly 20 representatives from the towns of Presque Isle, Mapleton, Castle Hill, Chapman, Perham, Wade and Washburn – the towns using the site – met on Oct. 17 at Presque Isle’s city hall to discuss the clogging problem and their options in fixing it, Dana Fowler, the city’s solid waste director, said recently.

“I think the group as a whole wanted to have a long-term, cost-effective solution and that’s why they’re looking at expansion,” Fowler said. “That option allows for a 30-year time period for operating the landfill.”

According to Fowler, the collection system at the 13-acre Presque Isle landfill is not working properly.

There is a liner underneath the trash that is supposed to prevent liquids from entering the ground water, but a chemical reaction involving the leachate is clogging the pipes.

Fowler said officials have no way to counteract the chemical reaction, nor was it something state officials knew about when the landfill was created in the 1990s.

Fowler has said that the options are to install a liner system on top of the existing landfill trash; to expand the landfill; to close the landfill and build a transfer station; or to close the landfill and pay to have trash taken directly to another solid waste facility.

Officials chose to move forward on the expansion and new liner system, and also opted to host discussions with Tri-Community Landfill in Fort Fairfield to see whether any cooperative efforts could be worked out between the two landfills.

“They’ll pursue the expansion unless there’s development with Tri-Community Landfill that would steer them in a different direction,” Fowler said. “It’s a major decision, a major financial investment. They want to check all possible avenues before they make a final decision.”

Fowler said officials are revising cost estimates for the project, but that the capital cost is about $7.9 million, though officials would have to raise only $2.5 million for the first phase of the project. Construction on Phase 1 would begin in 2008; phase 2 in 2030.

Fowler explained that the expansion would involve installing a new liner on top of the existing trash that would prevent liquids from entering the existing, partially clogged system.

“It’s like putting a rain coat on top of the existing trash,” he explained.

Then, the expansion – including a new drainage system – would be completed. It would tie into the new liner on top of the trash so leachate could drain properly.

“It’s like if you had a bathtub drain working very slowly,” Fowler explained of the old collection system. “If you stop putting water into the bathtub, then there’s no more problem.”

Municipal leaders are expected to meet again on the matter as soon as cost estimates for the project are revised.

Landfill officials must advise the Maine Department of Environmental Protection of their intentions for fixing the problem before the end of 2006.

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