How Landfills Work
Bavarian proudly owns and operates a contained, non-hazardous landfill in Walton, Kentucky. This means that our landfill is built to protect the environment and does not accept any hazardous waste. We feel obliged and privileged to be good stewards of our natural resources and run our landfill in compliance with all applicable government regulations. The Kentucky Division of Waste Management, the government organization responsible for regulating landfills, has laid out extensive guidelines and regulations that all Kentucky landfills are required to follow. Bavarian actively works to meet or exceed all pertinent regulatory requirements. As part of our efforts to be a good neighbor, we’d like to explain how we operate. Please join us on a quick tour of our operations.
What is a landfill?
A landfill is a scientifically run waste burying operation. At its most basic level, a landfill is a place where household, construction, industrial, special, or other types of waste are buried in a specially constructed hollowed-out area of land. Landfills are specifically designed to prevent contamination of the environment by the buried waste. This is the difference between a landfill and a dump. A dump is an illegal, unregulated place where waste is dumped into the environment. Landfills are legal, regulated waste disposal sites designed to prevent environmental contamination.
What goes into building a landfill?
Bavarian’s current landfill unit, Unit IV, is being constructed in eight parts or phases. Each phase must be approved by the Division of Waste Management before any waste can be placed in the phase. In the spring and early summer of 2015, we built Bavarian’s Unit IV Phase 3. This involved several steps.
First, we removed the grass and topsoil from the hillside against which Phase 3 would lie.
Second, we built up the hillside to the specifications and slope we needed.
Third, after the subgrade was in place, we put four six-inch lifts of crushed shale clay over the entire hillside and compacted each lift to form a two-foot thick clay barrier between the environment and the Phase 3 liner.
A Bavarian employee uses a GPS-controlled bulldozer to grade the final six-inch lift of clay material.
A Bavarian employee uses a smooth drum roller to compact and smooth the final six-inch lift of clay material.
Bavarian’s new Phase 3 is ready for the plastic liner.
Fourth, with the clay in place and inspected and approved by the Division of Waste Management, we hired an outside liner company to lay roughly $500,000 of heavy-duty plastic liner materials over the entire 5.5-acre Phase 3. The liner materials included the following:
1. A geo-synthetic Bentomat layer which will seal any possible leaks in the plastic liner.
Here you can see the plastic liner with a strip of seam removed for mandated stress testing. Underneath you can see the geo-synthetic Bentomat layer.
2. A heavy-duty plastic liner installed with no gaps between the panels.
Here you can see the new liner. This is a patch placed over the strip of liner seam removed for mandated stress testing in the last picture.
3. A tri-layer filter fabric designed both to protect the plastic liner and to direct water flow.
Here you can see the liner on the left and the filter fabric on the right.
Finally, after approval of the liner, waste is placed in Phase 3. The waste is placed in lifts, being careful not to puncture the liner. Any items that could puncture the liner are removed from the first ten feet of waste and reburied later.
What happens to rainwater that enters the landfill?
At Bavarian, we take every practical effort we can to ensure that the least amount of rainwater enters the landfill by using berms and ditches to control runoff and direct the water around the waste. However, inevitably, some portion of rainwater enters the landfill itself and runs through the waste. This water, having passed through the waste, is known as leachate. The leachate all works its way through the trash and runs along the filter fabric we laid just above the plastic liner. This leads the leachate into pipes which we buried in the waste. These pipes take the leachate to collection and storage tanks where we keep the leachate until it is either recycled through the landfill or hauled to a certified wastewater treatment plant.
One of Bavarian’s massive leachate storage tanks.
What happens to the methane produced by the landfill?
Decaying waste produces several gases which Bavarian collects in order to prevent their release into the atmosphere. Primarily, the gases produced by the landfill are Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4). Both are odorless gases that we at Bavarian collect through specially designed gas wells. The gas is suctioned to East Kentucky Power Cooperative’s on-site landfill gas to energy plant where the gas is burned in giant engines to produce electricity. Currently, the power plant produces 3.2 Megawatts every hour. We are also working with East Kentucky Power to expand the power plant to increase production to 4.6 Megawatts!
Any excess gas the landfill produces is burned at our stationary flare near the power plant. The flare’s large flame can often be seen from I-71 and is quite impressive at night.
One of Bavarian’s landfill gas collection wells.
One of the massive engines in East Kentucky Power’s gas to energy plant.