Putnam County Seal - Putnam Sentinel

PUTNAM COUNTY — “When the landfill was sited there, it was a tile and brick operation, and it’s just solid clay,” says Putnam County Administrator Jackson Betscher when discussing county plans to treat leachate from the landfill with a constructed wetland. “It’s just solid clay. It’s hardly permeable for water. In fact, going back to the 80’s and 90’s, we have data showing the migration of water from there, even if there wasn’t a leachate collection system, would take thousands of years just to move an inch.”

The county landfill is entering year 17 of a 30-year post closure care period. Currently, the landfill generates between 300,000 and 500,000 gallons of leachate per year. Which is hauled to the Ottawa wastewater treatment plant for disposal. This is according to a report generated by Bowser Morner, an engineering and environmental services company based in Toledo.

“The leachate collection system was placed after the landfill closed,” Betscher continues. “It was part of the 30-year closure plan, which had to be written for EPA compliance. So we have huge pits there and a huge system of water collection. It’s gravity fed and we clean it out annually to ensure there are no clogs. It empties into a tank. This tank is then regularly emptied and the leachate is then treated at the village of Ottawa.”

“We tested it two years ago, because with all of the leachate we collected there was a permeability question. We did samplings throughout the landfill and found out that the permeability met EPA standards…And, if you test our leachate, you will determine that our leachate almost equates to surface water, just any surface water. It isn’t mixed with the trash…compared to other leachate, ours is a pretty generic type of non-contaminated leachate.”

“The bad part of that is we spend a lot of money treating it. The good part about it is that we’ve used this analysis to convince the EPA through our engineers that this is something that needs to be considered.”

According to Betscher, the EPA has always resisted alternative plans to treating potentially contaminated leachate from closed landfills. This changed when the EPA itself had to take over the management of a closed landfill in southeastern Ohio that did not adequately fund its post-closure care period and subsequently went bankrupt.

“They personally found out how much money it took to treat the leachate and transport it, which is what we do,” says Betscher. “So they set up their own wetland to treat it, and it worked well for them. So, then we take their criteria, which is public information, apply it to us, and say, ‘What would be problematic about us doing this and putting this in place?’ Because here we are in a clay base that is more non-permeable than what [the EPA] has in southeastern Ohio, and we want to do [a similarly constructed wetland] here.”

According to Betscher, approval to begin a process of treating leachate through a constructed wetland has been granted from the EPA, but more steps are required before such a wetland is created. A Permit to Install application will need to be completed, which will require additional soil testing. A holding pond for the treated water will also need to be maintained until the county can prove that the treated water does not pose an environmental threat to surrounding groundwater.

Should all go according to plan, the wetland created at the landfill could serve as a working alternative to more costly leachate treatment options currently in use by both public and private landfills throughout the state and beyond.