County department boosts recycling, cuts costs

WOODSTOCK – The Shenandoah County agency that runs the landfill continues to increase recycling while saving money.

Solid Waste Department Director Patrick Felling updated the Board of Supervisors this week on his agency’s activities, including efforts to cut costs while helping the environment.

The department used to pay to send out batteries it collected for recycling. Now the department can collect and recycle batteries at no charge, he said. The department puts batteries in pre-paid, UPS boxes that they then mail out to a recycler, Felling said.

The department found another vendor to collect used oil deposited at the landfill. This reduced the department’s cost to dispose of oil by 80 percent, Felling said. The landfill used to receive money for used oil when gas prices were high, Felling recalled.

The agency had been burying lumber containing chemicals in the landfill because the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality would not allow the county to turn the wood into mulch, Felling said. This month, DEQ granted the county’s request to mix the lumber with the brush already used for covering the landfill, he added.

The county department also is working with recycling vendors to find the best prices for scrap metal and computers disposed of at the landfill, Felling said. Recycling efforts brought in more than $400,000 over the past five years in spite of the low rate, the director said.

“With a concerted effort on the part of our residents and small businesses, we could double, triple, quadruple the amount we recycle,” Felling said.

A considerable amount of cardboard ends up at the landfill. However, the county could make money by selling cardboard, given the price the material now brings, Felling said.

The county agency could see roughly $2 million after eight years if it brought in $250,000 a year through recycling efforts, he estimated. That could help the county cover the cost of new landfill cells in the future, he noted, adding that at the same time the county would put off needing new cells by recycling rather than burying materials.

The director said he’s working with the tourism department and others to promote recycling in the county.

Felling also reported:
• The groundwater extraction project continues to help the county track and collect “constituents of concern” or chemicals and other substances before they leak from the landfill near Edinburg and leave the site. The department expanded a groundwater extraction well near Interstate 81 suspected of containing the chemicals. The idea is to draw the water back into the area of the well and, from there, pipe the leachate to a pond at the landfill, Felling explained. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality required that the county install the well to prevent the “constituents of concern” from leaving the landfill site and contaminating the nearby groundwater. The county department saved money by installing an air-powered pump to push the water to the leachate pond rather than use an electric pump that would have required a 1,500-foot connection to an electrical line.
• The department also recently removed the compactor equipment and related materials from the county’s former convenience site serving the St. Luke’s area. The property owners declined to renew the lease with the county that allowed the operation of the convenience site. The county agreed to remove the equipment from the site and return the property to pasture land by March 31. Photos show the property now covered with new grass blocked off by a fence and a wide gate for vehicles. County staff gave the property owners a walk-through of the site. Supervisors met in closed session at the meeting to discuss the possible acquisition of property for a new compactor site in the St. Luke’s area as well as the county’s facility on U.S. 55 expected to close by the end of the year.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com