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Can Lincoln afford the landfill clean up?

By: Carol Percy, Reporter Lincoln News Messenger
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What the City of Lincoln is up against

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would not give solutions for cleaning up the landfill. The agency e-mailed The Messenger the following: “We are unable to provide information on a specific site because there are too many variables, such as financial de-cisions. In regards to what could have been placed in an old landfill from the 1950s - it could have been anything from municipal waste, industrial waste, chemicals, to industrial discharge. White goods (re-frigerators) and any car parts that could not be salvaged may also have been included.

Evaluating toxins left behind by landfill solid waste, Earl Ste-phens gave seven options in his city report, outlining each option’s benefits, limitations, time for completion and cost. The city gave option 7.

1. Over-excavation and Offsite Disposal - digging out the solid waste and transporting it to a landfill designated for hazardous materials

Remedial Effect on Site – Removes contamination source

Limitations – Does not treat contaminated groundwater

Estimated Cost - $4,800,000 to $14,034,000 (disposal cost uncertain)

Best Case Time to Completion Estimate – 8 years

2. Cutoff Trenches with Pump and Treat — pumps out and treats the contaminated water.

Remedial Effect on Site – Treat contaminated groundwater

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source (solid waste remains in landfill)

Estimated Cost - $5,842,000

Best Case Time to Completion Estimate – On-going monitoring

3. Wells with Pump and Treat

Remedial Effect on Site – Treat contaminate groundwater

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source

Estimated Cost – $6,568,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate – On-going monitoring

4. De-water Site to Below Trenches

Remedial Effect on Site – Minimize additional groundwater contamination

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source

Estimated Cost – $8,730,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate - On-going monitoring

5. Subsurface Barrier Soil Mixing

Remedial Effect on Site – Minimize contaminated groundwater from leaving Site

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source or treat groundwater

Estimated Cost – $3,096,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate – On-going monitoring

6. Subsurface Barrier Steel Piles

Remedial Effect on Site – Minimize contaminated groundwater from leaving site

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source or treat groundwater

Estimated Cost – $5,462,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate - On-going monitoring

7. Repair Landfill Cap and Continue Monitoring

Remedial Effect on Site – Reduces the concentration in groundwater leaving the Site

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source or treat groundwater

Estimated Cost – $611,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate – On-going monitoring

8. No remediation and continue monitoring. Estimated Cost - $130,000 annually for monitoring.

 

Lincoln city officials know that the old dump on Virginiatown Road is a health hazard.

Recent data in an engineering report paid for by the city of Lincoln revealed that toxic waste from the closed landfill has migrated into ground water near Auburn Ravine.

So the question now is will the city’s chosen remediation option of April 29 be enough to “cure” the problem and where will Lincoln get the money to clean up the dump?

The city’s chosen clean-up option out of eight options in the report — a $600,000 repair of the dump’s clay cap — is a point of controversy among City Hall officials.

That option was added to the engineering report at a request by city staff.

Councilmen Paul Joiner, Gabriel Hydrick, Peter Gilbert and Mayor Stan Nader voted to go forward with a proposal to endorse the least expensive clean-up measure identified by an engineering feasibility study at an April 29 closed session meeting about which remediation option to choose.

Lincoln City Councilman Spencer Short was the one dissenting vote at the April 29 meeting.

Short said that the city’s clay cap remediation was inadequate and, over time, would not only cost the city more money but could adversely affect the health of local residents. Short wants a long-term solution to the problem even though it will initially cost more, he said.

“Because contaminants are migrating into groundwater, the most comprehensive solution would be to over-excavate the site, removing all hazardous materials. Over-excavating protects the current and future citizens of Lincoln from significant financial consequences,” Short said.

The over-excavation option could cost up to $14 million, according to the city’s engineering study estimates.

Mark Miller, Lincoln’s director of public services, said at the regular City Council meeting April 23 that the city “was compelled to act quickly in order to meet a May 15 deadline imposed by the California Water Quality Control Board or to risk paying a $10,000 late fee.”

The state water board required that Lincoln send a proposal by May 15 indicating a plan to begin remediation at the landfill, Miller said.

Mayor Nader supported the City Council’s decision to go forward with the clay cap clean-up proposal, saying that the choice was based on concerns for both city finances and public safety.

“We needed to work with the water board on what would be the most cost-effective solution for the citizens of Lincoln and yet provide the city with the best level of protection while staying within the needs and requirements of the state water board regulations,” Nader said.

At the crux of the discussion about which remediation the city should implement at the dump, is the Corrective Action Plan and Engineering Feasibility Study conducted by Applied Engineering and Geology, Inc. (AEG) principal engineer, Earl Stephens, at the request of the city. He has prepared these reports since 1991.

In his April 5 report, Stephens identified:

• Hazardous levels of toxins in the 60-year-old dump

• Clean-up options to address the issues

• Costs for clean-up options

What the city is up against in terms of costs for dump clean-up

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would not give specific solutions for cleaning up the landfill. But the agency did respond to The News Messenger with the following quote: “We are unable to provide information on a specific site because there are too many variables, such as financial decisions. In regards to what could have been placed in an old landfill from the 1950’s - it could have been anything from municipal waste, industrial waste, chemicals, to industrial discharge. White goods (refrigerators) and any car parts that could not be salvaged may also have been included.

In evaluating the toxins left behind by the solid waste in the landfill, Stephens suggested seven options in his report to the city, outlining each remediation’s benefits, limitations, time for completion and cost.

1. Remedial Method – Over-excavation and Offsite Disposal-digging out the solid waste and transporting it to a landfill designated for hazardous materials

Remedial Effect on Site – Removes contamination source

Limitations – Does not treat contaminated groundwater

Estimated Cost - $4,800,000 to $14,034,000 (disposal cost uncertain)

Best Case Time to Completion Estimate – 8 years

2. Remedial Method – Cutoff Trenches with Pump and Treat—pumps out and treats the contaminated water.

Remedial Effect on Site – Treat contaminated groundwater

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source (solid waste remains in landfill)

Estimated Cost - $5,842,000

Best Case Time to Completion Estimate – On-going monitoring

3. Remedial Method – Wells with Pump and Treat

Remedial Effect on Site – Treat contaminate groundwater

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source

Estimated Cost – $6,568,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate – On-going monitoring

4. Remedial Method – De-water Site to Below Trenches

Remedial Effect on Site – Minimize additional groundwater contamination

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source

Estimated Cost – $8,730,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate - On-going monitoring

5. Remedial Method – Subsurface Barrier Soil Mixing

Remedial Effect on Site – Minimize contaminated groundwater from leaving Site

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source or treat groundwater

Estimated Cost – $3,096,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate – On-going monitoring

6. Remedial Method – Subsurface Barrier Steel Piles

Remedial Effect on Site – Minimize contaminated groundwater from leaving site

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source or treat groundwater

Estimated Cost – $5,462,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate - On-going monitoring

7. Remedial Method – Repair Landfill Cap and Continue Monitoring

Remedial Effect on Site – Reduces the concentration in groundwater leaving the Site

Limitations – Does not remove contamination source or treat groundwater

Estimated Cost – $611,000

Best Case Time to Complete Estimate – On-going monitoring

How toxic is the dump and will the state water board accept the city’s clean-up option?

The Lincoln landfill operated from 1952 to 1976, according to Wendy Wyels, environmental program manager for the Central Valley Regional Water Board. The site accepted municipal solid waste until 1973 and then only accepted lawn and garden waste after that. Some of the waste may have been burned to reduce the volume. After 1976, a thin layer of soil was placed over the waste, according to the state water board website.

The landfill is regulated under Waste Discharge Requirements which require groundwater monitoring and final closure.

There are low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the groundwater beneath the landfill, Wyels added. The VOCs (tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, cis-1, 2-dichloroethene, and toluene) are typical for those found beneath unlined landfills that accepted municipal solid waste. From the available data, the plume is small and contained within the landfill property. The most recent monitoring report (November 2012) doesn’t show any detections for Freon or benzene, Wyels said.

However, on page 4 of the AEG report prepared by Stephens on April 5 of this year, he noted that “a review of the laboratory analytical data (taken in the vicinity of disposal trenches) indicates the following toxic substances (including Freon 12) were found in concentration above the MRL--minimum reporting limits.”

What happens after the state water board receives the city’s remediation proposal?

Wyels said that her agency expects to receive the city’s proposal for the Virginiatown Road landfill remediation today (May 9). The water board “will take about four weeks to evaluate the plan and get back to the city of Lincoln for further discussion,” Wyels said.

Asked by The News Messenger if the toxic waste from the Virginiatown Road landfill was hazardous to the public, Wyels said that the last reports from monitoring wells at the landfill had “fairly low levels of contaminants”. The most recent monitoring report was in November 2012, she said.

“However, at the time we get the report (from Lincoln), we will review all work plans and reevaluate them,”  Wyels said. “We’ll look at the concentrations of contaminants in the water and at that time we can suggest options but we can’t dictate which remediation option the city should use,” she said.

Wyels also said that she couldn’t speculate about how effective the city’s remediation choice might be because many options exist for remediation depending on the type of contaminants that are present in waste water.

Although the city’s remediation method is up for discussion, there’s one point on which the water board is adamant, Wyels said.

“We just want the contamination to stop,” she said.

Where would Lincoln get funding for the clean-up?

While there is funding available for waste water treatment, the regional water board does not have sources for funding municipal landfill remediations, Wyels said.

However, Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep said he will look into federal and state funding sources to pay for the landfill remediation.

“We're talking about everywhere from $600,000 to $14 million and since the city currently does not have adequate funding to pay for the high-end estimate for remedial action, we're looking for any viable sources of funding that will help us to fund the ultimate cost of the remediation,” Estep said.

CalRecycle state grants and loans for solid waste clean-up may be available for counties, cities, districts and state agencies for site cleanup to protect public health and safety and the environment,” according to information on the California government website at ca.gov.

Although public entities are responsible for maintaining landfill sites in compliance with state regulations, state programs may provide reimbursement grants up to $750,000 in matching funds, according to information on ca.gov.

According to federal EPA sources, Lincoln “will have more luck” appealing to state funding entities for help financing the landfill remediation.

“Regarding federal funding for landfill remediations, you will need to check in with the state environmental agencies,” said a source at the federal office of the Environmental Protection Agency.