The volume of traffic going in and out of the Shenandoah County landfill at peak hours on certain weekends is reaching a point where it’s no longer sustainable, Patrick Felling, the county’s director of solid waste management, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday evening.
According to data that Felling presented during the supervisors’ regular twice-monthly meeting, peak landfill traffic on certain Saturdays — particularly during the spring and summer months — has been on a steep incline in recent years. In 2016, the highest number of vehicles the county had crossing the scales on a single day at the Edinburg facility was 390. Last month, that total was 648.
“Just to put that in perspective, the landfill is only open for 480 minutes and every vehicle has to go across the scales in or across the scales out,” Felling said of a facility that is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed on Sundays and has only one set of scales to serve both incoming and outgoing traffic. “So that’s 1,300 trips in 480 minutes. This is obviously not sustainable.”
Felling offered supervisors three options to consider to address the problem: do nothing (which he did not recommend), install a second scale to allow simultaneous flow of inbound and outbound traffic, or create a 2- or 3-acre citizen convenience site between the landfill and the nearby Shenandoah County Animal Shelter at which residents could unload materials that they would typically have to drive into the landfill to dispose of.
Felling said he preferred the third option — which would reserve entrance to the landfill via the scales only for paying businesses — noting that his department has had a draft plan for such a site drawn up for a couple of years as “we saw this need coming.” He added that Frederick County uses a similar facility and that the concept “is a good one.”
By constructing such a site, people would have a centralized location at which they could dump materials such as trash, recycling, tires, electronics, paints, oils and scrap metal that they would otherwise have to drive all over the landfill to dispose of, Felling said. He added that it also would remove the general public from a situation where heavy equipment is regularly operated.
As the number of customers and the amount of waste being dumped at the landfill continues to rise, the facility’s Phase 3 cell is nearing capacity, and Felling told supervisors on Tuesday that the opening of the new cell, which was expected to already be in operation, was delayed by a “very unusual” occurrence.
Felling said that about four weeks ago, “several hundred” gallons of water were discovered underneath the thick plastic liner of the new Phase 4 cell and that county staff were “very perplexed as to how it got there.” The problem has since been alleviated, though Felling told supervisors on Tuesday that the county was still waiting approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality before it receives the certificate to operate the new cell.
“It was very odd,” Felling told supervisors. “We investigated it and the best we can think is somehow the recent flush of rain we had, the water pushed its way through places it shouldn’t have gotten. We’ve addressed that and we’re still waiting on the DEQ to give us a thumbs-up on the cell. Everything else about the cell is working just fine. In the long run it shouldn’t cause a problem, but it certainly was an unexpected delay.”
Felling told The Daily in late January that the landfill’s Phase 3 cell was at 95% capacity and that the county could “probably squeeze” six more months out of that cell at that point. The Phase 4 cell, which cost the county about $3 million, has a projected lifespan of seven to eight years, according to Felling.
Shenandoah County also will likely need to wait at least a couple more months before its recycling program gets back up to full speed. Felling told supervisors on Tuesday that a new machine used to bale recyclables, which the county purchased to replace a similar baler that broke in January and which county staff had hoped would arrive by the end of the fiscal year, likely won’t arrive until July. Felling said the new baler was ordered last month.
The old machine’s malfunction earlier this year threw into disarray the county’s recycling efforts, and since few options existed for shipping unbaled recyclables, some of those materials — like paper and cardboard — were initially just being tossed into the landfill. Felling said on Tuesday that the county is currently able to recycle everything but plastic until the new baler arrives.
Plastic recycling, even without the county’s baler problems, has been negatively impacted by the global recycling market, and the county, even with a new baler, will only be able to recycle certain plastic bottles and jugs. Felling said on Tuesday that, due to the current recycling market, 60% of plastic that had previously been recyclable is no longer so.