Originally created 12/19/97

State examines Muscogee County landfill



COLUMBUS, Ga. -- The Muscogee County landfill emits higher than allowable levels of methane gas and organic compounds that appear to be polluting the groundwater, a state official says.

But he concluded that no one is being harmed because the groundwater in that area is not tapped.

Pete Dasher, a state Environmental Protection Division geologist who's been assigned to examine the Muscogee County landfill, said field testing concluded no one taps into the affected groundwater for any purpose.

Nevertheless, the EPD has ordered Columbus to drill nine more monitoring wells by Dec. 31 and come up with a plan by June to stop the leaks. On Tuesday, Columbus councilors approved an emergency expenditure of $20,000 to install the wells and to continue testing and investigating releases of the methane and organic compounds.

"It's a routine event to detect groundwater impact and go to this next step of assessment," Dasher said. "There's no punishment here. We've just asked for a more aggressive field investigation. We want to see how far this plume of contamination is."

Hundreds of people who live near the east Columbus landfill will likely be watching to see what the city does to correct the problem. Many of them were members of a grassroots group that filed a string of lawsuits attempting to stop construction of a new landfill that will also be near their homes.

The current landfill is slated to close in February, the same time the new landfill should be ready to begin accepting trash.

The old landfill will be capped with two feet of clay and tested for leaks for years to come. The new landfill will have a clay lining and plastic system to catch leachates.

The new landfill is expected to last 30-50 years, and will hold trash from Columbus and Muscogee County, Fort Benning and Chattahoochee County.