CHAPEL HILL – We are a month away from the closing of the Orange County Municipal Solid Waste Landfill—an event neighbors close to it will likely rejoice over. But closing a landfill that’s been open for about 40 years isn’t an easy task.
Gayle Wilson is the Orange County Solid Waste Management Director. He’s in charge of over-seeing the process of shutting the landfill down. It’s located on the south side of Eubanks Road
“I think most people who don’t think about it very much probably just assume it’s just a matter of closing a gate—but it’s much more complicated than that,” Wilson said.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners decided in October 2011 to not pursue an option that could extend the life of the landfill—thus ensuring its closure this summer.
“It was going to reach capacity at some point anyway,” Wilson said. “Could the county have utilized it for another three or four years—yes, that’s probably true.”
Wilson says after it’s closed, current environmental regulations require that a cover system be placed on the landfill that is impervious to water.
Soil will be placed on top of a synthetic liner material. Then vegetation will be planted on the surface. The process will cost the county about $3.2 million and won’t be completed until the spring of 2014.
Wilson says they also have to get the landfill’s closure plan approved by the state.
Another component to the process is that about three years ago, UNC and the county signed an agreement entitling the university to the methane gas generated by the landfill. The university installed gas wells and pipes on the property—and then the gas in piped an electricity generator off Homestead Road. The synthetic liner will also be sealed around those gas wells.
“It’s a fairly sophisticated and highly engineered system. Then it will be made a little more complicated by the fact that we currently have a series of landfill gas extraction wells located around the surface of the landfill,” Wilson said.
Last day waste is accepted at the landfill is Saturday, June 29. Wilson says June 30 is the official closure day, though, originally set by the CountyCommissioners.
“Most people will not notice a difference. Most people who currently deliver their waste to convenience centers will see no change,” he said.
Wilson also notes that closing the landfill does not result in dramatic job losses for workers. Six positions will and have already been eliminated— three are currently staffed. He says they hope to find work within the department for those workers.