Originally created 12/10/97

Solid waste program may get second chance



An experimental program at the Columbia County landfill may get one more chance next year.

Bioremediation, a process that uses bacteria and water to accelerate the decay of garbage, was voted down by Solid Waste Authority members last week amid concerns over the program's effectiveness.

The year-old pilot program was funded by a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The idea is to compact garbage and make it settle rapidly, so landfills last longer and hold more trash.

Although proponents hoped treated garbage would settle as much as 15 percent a year, the current rate is only 4.5 percent, said Bernie Bessette, program manager for American Technologies Inc., which oversees the program.

Although support for the project is waning among Solid Waste Authority members, Mr. Bessette hopes to schedule a meeting with county officials to appeal for continued funding next year.

"I have been opposed to it from the beginning," Solid Waste Authority member Barbara Putnam said, adding she could not support putting more county money into the program.

But Mr. Bessette said the program will work; it simply needs more time.

Originally, American Technologies introduced air into the landfill through a series of pipes below the garbage. In September, it began injecting air through wells dug in the trash.

"We are very comfortable that is going to make a big difference," Mr. Bessette said, adding the program just needs more time to be proved. "Had we operated for six months with both (air induction processes), we think we would have gotten a lot further with settlement and decomposition."

Columbia County, he said, is among two counties in the nation undertaking bioremediation. The other, administered by Waste Management near Atlanta, is producing about the same results as Columbia County.

"It is actually working quite well, now that we have the combined system together," Mr. Bessette said. "That is part of the learning process we went through."