Following odor complaints that stem back to 2013, the Seneca County Board of Health in March voted on the “intent to deny” a renewal license for Sunny Farms Landfill, a 670-acre site in Fostoria, Ohio, owned by Stamford, Connecticut-based Tunnel Hill Partners.
Waste Today spoke with Matthew Neely, senior vice president, Tunnel Hill, and Dina Pierce, coordinator, Northwest and Southwest Districts, Ohio EPA, about the timeline of the odor complaints and the capital investments Tunnel Hill, recently acquired by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, New York City, is making to improve operations and eliminate odors at Sunny Farms.
“During the last several months, Sunny Farms has invested more than $4 million in new technology, new equipment and new processes to reduce hydrogen sulfide" gasses, Neely says.
Established in 1970, Sunny Farms Landfill primarily accepts construction and demolition materials from commercial and residential construction projects.
“The communities around Sunny Farms Landfill have been experiencing odors resulting from hydrogen sulfide gas, which is often compared to a ‘rotten egg’ odor,” Pierce says. “These odors have been at unacceptable levels.”
Hydrogen sulfide gas is generated when "high volumes" of drywall decompose at the landfill, Pierce explains. The board of health is responsible for issuing licenses to Sunny Farms, as well as performing inspections and initiating enforcement actions when owners and operators fail to comply with environmental laws. Ohio EPA conducts a survey of the approved board of health annually, Pierce says.
January, Ohio EPA issued orders to Sunny Farms, requiring the landfill to take several actions to reduce odors, with deadlines for each action. Orders includ installing an odor control blanket (OCB) by April 30, as well as additional gas wells and gas extraction infrastructure.
“The goal of the orders is to eliminate the strong off-site odors from the facility that have been recently plaguing the community,” Pierce says. “The orders also establish criteria to measure and track odors and evaluate the effectiveness of the odor control activities.”
March, Sunny Farms missed a “key deadline” of covering soil over a portion of the landfill, Pierce says. Ohio EPA issued the landfill a notice of violation and refereed the case to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, she says.
Enhanced landfill gas collection, a capping project and a wastewater treatment system to remove hydrogen sulfide gasses from landfill wastewater are underway at Sunny Farms, Neely says.
The hydrogen sulfide treatment system is “designed specifically to control hydrogen sulfide gases.” Installed in December, the system consists of six vacuum boxes that capture hydrogen sulfide from extracted landfill gas.
“The system is operational and is effectively collecting and removing hydrogen sulfide,” Neely says.
A capping project includes placing clay and a plastic liner over a 22-acre portion of the landfill that has reached capacity. The project is scheduled for completion in the second quarter of 2019 and will “permanently seal that part of the landfill, keeping moisture out and keeping gases from escaping.”
Sunny Farms also recently expanded its gas collection system on the southern portion of the landfill, doubling the number of gas collection wells to 26 and the number of horizontal collector pipes to 27. An additional 21 gas collectors and a vacuum piping network were installed beginning of March.
Neely adds a pilot wastewater treatment system to remove hydrogen sulfide was built in 2018 and “proved very successful.” Sunny Farms plans to build a permanent, full-scale system after regulatory approval, he says.
Sunny Farms maintains an odor complaint hotline, which received 276 odor complaints between October and December 2018.
“We actively follow up on every call we receive,” Neely says. “We investigate odor complaints and dispatch personnel to reported locations with hydrogen sulfide measuring equipment.”
Sunny Farms has installed permanent monitors to test for hydrogen sulfide levels and provides weekly reports to Ohio EPA and the health board, which includes detection levels from each reading. Neely says Sunny Farms is observing "much lower and fewer occurrences of hydrogen sulfide" from the daily measurements.
“Our agreement with the Ohio EPA includes monitoring standards that are substantially more stringent than requirements for many other landfills in Ohio and nationally,” Neely says.
If the county health board denies the annual license, and the landfill loses on appeal, the facility will have to cease operations, Pierce says.