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City fined for methane gas releases at its former Cool Spring Road landfill in Stafford
By RUSTY DENNEN
Fredericksburg will pay a $13,965 fine to resolve methane gas issues at the city's former landfill on Cool Spring Road in southern Stafford County.
City Council recently approved the payment in a consent order with the Virginia Waste Management Board. A consent order is a negotiated settlement between the agency and a responsible party.
According to the order, Fredericksburg stopped accepting waste at the landfill just north of State Route 3 in 1986, but it wasn't closed until 1996. The property is adjacent to the Chaplin Youth Center off Hot Top Road. Fredericksburg's trash now goes to the Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board landfill on Eskimo Hill Road in Stafford.
In an Aug. 22 memorandum to the Fredericksburg council, city Public Works Director Doug Fawcett wrote that after the landfill was closed, the city was required to monitor and manage groundwater and methane gas on the property.
The gas from the decomposing trash is collected in a piping system that loops around a portion of the 90-acre site, and is flared--burned off--for disposal.
Over the years, Fawcett said, the city "has encountered various challenges associated with the methane gas extraction system and has addressed those issues as they have arisen."
For example, until a few years ago the extraction system didn't completely surround the area where the waste was buried. When methane levels at monitoring sites spiked near the youth center, "the system was expanded to complete the loop."
Subsequent high gas readings last year, Fawcett said, were caused by an ongoing issue.
During heavy rains, "water seeped into the extraction system headers, thus preventing the system from properly extracting gas and moving it to the flare."
Methane gas, widely found in nature, is explosive, and at high concentrations can displace oxygen in air and cause asphyxiation.
After a compliance inspection in March 2011, the state Department of Environmental Quality issued notices of violation in May and October of that year.
During that period, gas-monitoring units exceeded a 5 percent "lower explosive limit" concentration on several occasions. One reading showed a methane concentration of 16.2 percent.
Fawcett said in his report that recent improvements at the site "should provide a long-term solution for the methane gas issues."
Those include piping and other equipment to handle water flowing into the collection system and send it to Stafford's sewer system for treatment.
A $19,950 fine was initially assessed. That was reduced after the city showed that it had taken remedial steps. Those, Fawcett said, were actions "we were already planning to take to address the situation and have since completed."
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431