HEFLIN — A plan put into place several years ago by the Cleburne County Commission to improve water contamination from a closed county landfill near Chulafinnee is working, commissioners heard Monday.
Michael Doran, principal scientist with Southeastern Environmental Compliance, told the commission during a work session Monday night about recent test results from the landfill. The county contracts with SEEC to monitor the landfill.
Doran spoke at length about halting the flow of rainwater into the landfill, where seepage through the buried garbage picks up contaminants before entering into the groundwater.
During samples from groundwater wells in September, Doran said, one well tested just above the standard for volatile organic compounds and another tested above the acceptable standard for cobalt.
Doran said that cobalt is naturally occuring and is “not an issue.”
“It’s not a lot of contamination. It’s not reaching anybody, it’s not affecting anybody’s healthN nobody is drinking this water,” said Doran.
The landfill opened in the 1970s and closed in 1993 when tighter regulations required landfills to have liners according to Doran.
The landfill, a 101-acre piece of property with 37 acres of actual landfill, has to be monitored for 30 years after closure, Doran said, due to contaminants found in the groundwater when it was closed.
In 2015 the landfill’s surface — a thick clay cap — started to retain water through depressions and erosion which allowed water to seep into the waste and eventually the groundwater.
Modifications to the site included making a large “umbrella” of a clay cap to shed water off the landfill so it will not seep down.
“We should see some substantial drop offs in about three years ... the water quality will improve,” said Doran.
According to Doran contaminants have traveled 180 feet off the landfill site since it closed due to the ground itself, which is made mostly of clay. The site has 20 wells, of which 14 are being used to monitor groundwater.
Doran said that contaminants don’t move as quickly as water molecules do because the clay acts as a filter which traps contaminants. Doran compared the process to throwing cat litter — the clay — on an oil spill. The clay traps the oil but lets water pass.
The county pays $23,000 a year to SEEC according to county engineer Lee Estes.
In other business Estes told that commission that the closure of Alabama 46 to replace the bridge at Cane Creek has been pushed back to next week. Estes said that the Alabama Department of Transportation is still putting up signs to alert motorists.
Estes also told the commission that it will cost $260,000 to resurface the 8-mile Cleburne County section of the Chief Ladiga Trail. The commission talked about applying for a grant of up to $400,000 through the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission for non-vehicular trails and recreation.