Operations at the Grady Road Landfill took a dramatic change back in May when a court order required them to go from using a tarp and spray on covers to six inches of soil each day at the site off Highway 278.
The hill formed by the filling of cells on the northeast side of the site is visible from the highway between Cedartown and Rockmart, and if operations continue as-is, the site is likely to grow in height as well.
Waste Industries’ George Gibbons, who manages the site, wouldn’t specifically comment on the record since he is involved with the lawsuit between his company and the county. He did, however, provide access and information about operations on the site in a recent tour of the landfill at the beginning of August.
Currently, waste is being dumped on the opposite slope of what’s visible from the roadway and with thousands of cubic yards of soil being moved in layers on a daily basis, space is beginning to fill up faster than expected. At the same time, employees on the site have been busy when the weather remains dry digging out a new cell set to begin receiving new loads of trash in the years to come and process the soil for reuse on the site.
That cell is still in the early stages of preparation, and will eventually cost millions of dollars of materials and man-hours to prepare as part of overall investment in the facility as a whole.
As heavy machines moved over one portion of the site, trailers were being emptied onto the working face of the landfill dozens of feet overhead. One day in the distant future, the two elevations will meet as one.
The work is ongoing for Gibbons and the Waste Industries employees on-site to take in new loads of trash daily, despite limitations put in place by Judge Adele Grubbs, who is presiding over the lawsuit between Polk County and Waste Industries via their subsidiary and original contract holder, ETC of Georgia.
Prior to a temporary injunction put in place in early May by Grubbs, the landfill worked basically this way: trash was brought into the landfill from the early morning hours until the late afternoon from various sources, compacted by heavy equipment after being unloaded on a portion being used called the working face, and then trucks had to stop and clean out the back of their trailers before they left.
When operators at the landfill were done for the day, they brought in a giant tarp to cover the area where trash is being dumped for the time being, and in recent years added a spray-on covering that was used to help contain the smells.
Additional requirements were then placed on Waste Industries in their operations, requiring that six inches of soil be used daily to cover the working face of the landfill, continue odor and pest control efforts, and much more. Representatives from the company on several occasions have cited their hope is that those requirements will be overturned by the Court of Appeals, with a date not yet officially sat down on the docket for it to be argued on the state level.
Via data provided during the tour, those efforts being reported on daily by the company and by the county’s representative for the landfill Jerry Barker do differ from one another. The data did point to some positive results toward curtailing odor problems at the landfill and that adequate daily soil cover is being used.
Data from both Waste Industries and the county did in some cases point to issues with maintaining the six inches of daily soil cover, but those were recorded during days when heavy rainfall was moving through Polk County during the month of June.
There are concerns about problems caused by the addition of soil being placed over garbage on a daily basis. For instance, the liquid waste created by the compacting and breakdown of waste in the landfill called leachate can build up when soil layers are continually compacted, and if it meets a layer of soil and can’t push through to where the collection system at the bottom of a cell can instead move sideways and push out the sidewalls of the landfill, specifically in cells not yet capped off and closed.
Then there are additional problems caused by the soil layers for the methane collection system. Currently there are 77 wells on site that are dug through capped and temporarily closed portions of the landfill generating gas from the same process of breakdown and compaction that forms leachate.
Methane at the Grady Road Landfill is collected, pumped out and then burned off with a system on the site. That system works fine when the wells are dug down vertically and unimpeded along the way by soil or rock. With the additional layers of soil added in, the gas collection system will then be forced to dig horizontally to get to trapped methane and pull it out, costing additional dollars to an already expensive multi-million dollar process.
If either or both problems are adequately controlled, the build-up of trapped liquids and soils will begin busting out the sides of the landfill and cause major problems with the integrity of the slopes, the systems used to process liquids and gases, and much more.
The inclusion of soil over trash daily will also likely cause growth vertically more than previously expected. An additional 100 feet of airspace is available above where the top of the northeast slope sits currently unused, and might be taken up should the growth of soil layers force the loss of airspace.
For now, the operations at the landfill continue forward mainly as usual. Loads continue to come in daily, and workers continue to get ready for more in the future.