RODMAN — The arrival of 2012 wasn’t a “fresh start” for residents in the town of Rodman.
A strong, unpleasant odor caused by the construction of a gas-collection system at the regional landfill in their back yard — a problem since October — has residents wondering when they’ll get a breath of fresh air.
Managed by the Development Authority of the North Country, the solid waste management facility at 23400 Route 177 is building a new cell that will connect to the ninth cell at the landfill. But the process for doing so has released excess amounts of methane-gas emissions, created by decomposed trash, into the atmosphere. The gas is so putrid that residents in the town, such as Lyle E. Pickert, say it needs to be stopped.
Mr. Pickert, who lives about four miles west of the landfill at 12010 Route 97, said he’s concerned about the way the landfill has been managed by DANC. The town has a population of about 1,400.
“I smell it to the point where it’s now offensive,” he said, adding that it smells like a broken septic system. “In the last few months it’s become frequent and stronger. The first time I smelled it, I thought my septic system was bad.”
But if all goes according to plan, the stench should be mostly gone by the first week of February, said Richard R. LeClerc, solid waste management division manager. Workers are expected to complete the installation of a network of 26 wells that will capture the gas. Gas trapped in the cells will be directed by plastic pipes to a gas-to-energy plant managed by DANC, to be converted into electrical power.
“We’re anticipating a continued decrease in the odor issue” by that time, Mr. LeClerc said. “It should be noticeably lower once we’ve tied everything together and can effectively use all of the wells.”
Meanwhile, a temporary system of wells is being used to capture the gas, he said, and the facility is using an open flare — which operates like a large mechanical candle — to combust it. But because of the open membrane between the two cells, that system now is capturing only a percentage of the gas from the cell.
The gas-to-energy plant is slated to have a fourth electricity generator online by the end of the month, Mr. LeClerc said, which will use the additional gas produced from cells 10 and 11 to generate electricity. Innovative Energy Systems Inc., Oakfield, is the energy provider that operates the facility.
Construction of the cell is slated to be done by June, he said, with the goal of completing cell 11 by the end the year. The cells will triple the size of the landfill by adding a 146-acre expansion on the south end of the current 78 acres.
“The two new cells should give us the capacity to dump waste up to 2021,” he said.
But while the well system to be finished in two weeks should contain most of the odor, Mr. LeClerc said, the system will never be wholly stench-free because the system uses open cells to transport waste.
“When you place solid waste in an open cell, there aren’t any great ways to completely contain any of the methane gas that’s been generated,” he said, although he added that DANC is exploring better ways to trap the gas. He said exterior membranes are used to seal portions of the barrier above cells that aren’t actively used for dumping waste.
While many residents in Rodman are understandably dissatisfied with the emissions issue, Supervisor Gary R. Stinson said that officials from DANC have been forthcoming about informing the public. But he admitted the prolonged waiting period has been a burden for residents, including him, who have been dealing with the stench for months.
“Is it pleasant? Definitely not, but we’re going to have to deal with it,” he said, speculating that the odor has affected at least 400 residents in the town. “It’s been terrible at times, and the cold weather has made it noticeably worse.”
He cautioned that while the well system to trap the gas should take some of the smell away, residents should be prepared to deal with it until the system is completed in June.
“Until the new cell is connected to cell number nine, there’s going to be some aroma,” he said.