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Geneva methane leak – one year later

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST

GENEVA – This time last year, Waste Management was finding methane in a lot of probes around Midway Landfill, and a lot of unknowns – including the degree of risk to the community – still existed in January.

Now – after a year of problem solving and alterations to the site – Waste Management has a much better understanding and control of the situation, district manager Rod Stipe said.

“I don’t believe there is risk to the community,” he said. “We’ve got it under control.”

Methane was discovered on the landfill’s southwest corner near Fabyan Parkway on Dec. 1, 2011, which prompted an investigation to determine whether a nearby industrial park and homes were affected.

Waste Management has monitored the situation with probes around Midway Landfill and the adjacent Settler’s Hill Landfill. Although personnel once monitored about 65 probes daily, Stipe said, they now monitor about 30 probes weekly.

“There’s been lots of data collected,” he said, noting the database includes more than 7,000 lines of data.

Results are shared with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Kane County and the Geneva and Batavia fire departments, Stipe said.

Tim Harbaugh, Kane County’s executive director of facilities, development and environmental resources, said there is more work to be done, but Waste Management has done an “outstanding job” with containment.

“Overall, we’re very satisfied with the progress that’s been done,” Harbaugh said.

No methane has been detected in the residences, Stipe said. Further, he said, methane now is only infrequently detected on one probe off-site: the probe on Raddant Road, about 300 feet south of Fabyan Parkway.

More and more, Stipe said, the findings suggest the methane migration is a Midway problem.

Waste Management is creating an environment where gas migrating out of the bottom of Midway is captured before it moves off site, Stipe said.

Changes at Midway include improvements to the infrastructure that collects its methane and the installation of a flare, Stipe said. Before, Midway’s gas – and the methane from Settler’s Hill – fed into the gas plant, which generates electricity for Geneva. Isolating the systems should make the gas plant more efficient because the quality of Midway’s methane is not ideal.

Waste Management also has added two 15,000-gallon tanks for leachate storage on the Midway site, bringing the total storage capacity to 50,000 gallons, Stipe said. Leachate is the precipitation and irrigation that percolates through the landfill’s clay cap. Stipe said it needs to be removed to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination and problems with gas collection and biodegradation.

Going forward, Stipe said, the first half of 2013 will be spent monitoring the probes, gas wells and the system to see whether the changes made this year caused meaningful improvements.

Waste Management has a plan for additional improvements if needed, he said.

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