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Rodman doesn’t stink, thanks to membrane at landfill blocking fugitive emissions

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RODMAN — The town doesn’t stink.

At least not as much as it did two winters ago, when residents were complaining about unbearable odor to the Development Authority of the North Country, which runs the regional landfill at 23400 Route 177.

Now, those complaints have subsided, thanks to the installation of geosynthetic membranes that began in 2012. The membranes have trapped the stench of methane gas that is created by decomposed trash. The $3.5 million capital project at the landfill was approved by the authority in 2011 to reduce emissions and comply with regulations from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The first phase of the project, covering 14 acres on cells 6 and 7 with membrane material, will be done in about a month, according to the authority. The final phase, to cover the remaining six acres, will be done by the fall.

Thanks to the project, “there’s definitely been an improvement in fugitive emissions this year,” said Chad W. Hutton, consulting engineer for the authority. Along with reducing the escape of methane gas, Mr. Hutton said, the barrier keeps rain from entering the landfill. Water becomes leachate when it gets contaminated by trash underground. And less leachate collected reduces expenses for the authority, which hauls out thousands of gallons of leachate every day. The authority pays to transport the liquid to the city of Watertown’s wastewater treatment plant at 700 William T. Field Drive.

About a half-dozen workers were busy installing a permanent membrane Friday, situated on a steep slope of cell 7. About the size of a football field, the black membrane has taken workers several months to install, said Richard R. LeClerc, solid waste management division manager. It’s three layers thick. In between two lightweight layers of geosynthetic material is a thick, low-density polyethylene plastic that looks like carpet. Mr. LeClerc said that material is fused onto the geosynthetic layers to ensure a tight fit. Seams mark the membrane with visible lines, making it look like a football field.

Capping cells 6 and 7 with this material is part of the long-term strategy to manage the landfill, Mr. LeClerc said. Those two cells are situated at the center of the landfill, which will eventually look like a pyramid when it becomes full about 10 years from now. On this area, now flat, workers will install a temporary membrane this summer, a thinner layer of protection than the permanent type on the perimeter. It is temporary, Mr. LeClerc said, because the land will be filled with trash again in five to seven years, once the newly built cells 10 and 11 on the northern side are full.

Along with installing membranes over cells 6 and 7, the capital project includes the installation of 32 wells to capture methane gas underground, 17 of which are complete. Gas trapped in the network of underground cells is directed by plastic pipes to an off-site gas-to-energy plant, where it is converted into electrical power.

Though Rodman residents are still occasionally bothered by the odor from the landfill, Mr. LeClerc said, the membrane has greatly reduced that nuisance. While cold air during the winter often gives odors the chance to settle, he said, no residents complained this year.

The odor “has improved considerably, and is mostly weather-dependent,” he said.

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