FOSTORIA -Sunny Farms Landfill employees refer to it as an Olympic Torch.
Especially visible at dusk, the "torch" actually is a flame atop a large pipe. It is part of a gas extraction system that was in development for a year to eliminate the build up of methane gas that naturally occurs within a landfill.
In the past, Sunny Farms, 12500 W. CR 18, relied on the passive method of gas removal, which consisted of venting sites with PVC tubing that was fed within the waste buildup. The new system connects the piping system, and burns the gases that arise.
One of those, that could be sensed by neighbors and others in the vicinity at times, was hydrogen sulfide. This was exhibited as a sulphur or rotten egg odor.
"This eliminates the odor," said John Walker, director of projects for WCA Waste Corp. of Ohio, which owns Sunny Farms. "This was a voluntary project, we were not required to do this. We wanted to do this to be a good neighbor."
Walker said the year long project, from conception to implementation, cost the company $400,000.
"It's part of our continuous investment back in the business," he said. "While also fulfilling our desire to be a good neighbor at the same time."
When a cell is prepared, it begins with a liner which consists of multiple layers. The first is geologic material, structural fill or in-situ material, on top of that, soil is recompacted so that it is three feet thick. Then there is placed a flexible membrane liner, and on top of that a 15-inch-thick leachate collection/filter/protective layer. The waste is then put in - Walker said that on average, each cell lasts a year. Once it is determined that the cell is filled, the cover is placed on - repeating the initial steps, but in reverse.
Since waste is encapsulated in plastic, there is not a natural way for gas to release as waste breaks down. PVC piping was placed in each cell to serve as a passive venting system.Now the network of pipes feeds the flare by routing the landfill gas there; methane, Walker noted, is flammable.
"As we cap each new cell, that is when we will connect new pipes to the extraction system," he said.
Safety features are in place, including personnel to monitor each cell system each day, and a control panel, which senses if something is wrong and would shut the flare down.
"We worked with the EPA on the design and implementation of the entire system," Walker added.
There also is a leachate storage system in place underneath each cell that filters waste as rainwater works its way to the bottom of the cell. Then it is filtered out to the waste water treatment plant.
The landfill employs 40 individuals from the area. Walker said business is increasing every year, allowing them to hire additional employees in 2010.
Sunny Farms Landfill is one of 27 landfills, 25 transfer stations and 29 collection operators who operate throughout 15 states as WCA Waste Corporation.
Walker said Sunny Farms also has been able to give back to the community in past years, for example, by contributing funding for Fostoria's annual July 4th fireworks show. Once a year, generally in March, Fostoria and Loudon Township residents can bring household wastes to the landfill for free disposal.
The flare gas extraction system is just another way Sunny Farms is being a good neighbor, Walker said.