Expansion of Harvey County's C&D (construction and demolition) landfill has been at the forefront of potential projects for the county commission to take on in recent years, but shuffling of personnel in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has made it difficult to get those efforts approved.

Working to move forward with expansion, SCS Engineers Project Manager Steve Linehan came before the commission this week to discuss a couple of options the county could pursue — including an option to build up on the current C&D landfill or expand onto an entirely new site.

MKEC Engineering submitted a plan to the KDHE last year and, along with the staffing changes within the KDHE, that was ultimately held up by a gas issue.

"There's one problem with getting that approved through KDHE and that's that they are contingent with doing something with the landfill gas," Linehan said. "Landfill gas, methane primarily, is moving off site."

At the landfill site (northwest of the Solid Waste transfer station on S.W. 24th Street), C&D debris sits on top of municipal solid waste, which Linehan said breaks the latter down into methane gas. Currently, there are wells on the north side of the landfill to collect that gas and flares in place to burn it — but Solid Waste Superintendent Rollin Schmidt and Linehan noted the wells are not collecting enough gas to be burned at this point.

Following the KDHE's ruling, SCS Engineers were contacted to advise on the expansion project, and after review, Linehan suggested retrofitting the gas collection system by placing wind turbines on top of the wells. Even if the pipes are watered in and hindering gas collection, he noted that would offer a way for the gas to get out.

"Extending wells vertically, that is something we do regularly. That is a simple solution," Linehan said.

Commissioners questioned whether there would be odor issues if the gas is not burnt and goes through the turbines. Linehan said the gas levels are minimal, and much more would be required to create a noticeable smell.

Cutoff trenches would also be installed to help with the safe release of landfill gas to allow for upward expansion on the current site, though both Linehan and Harvey County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber stated the work is still in the planning stages and has not been submitted to the KDHE.

However, Linehan was confident that the plans he brought forward to commissioners could easily be plugged into MKEC Engineering's original proposal and be passed by the KDHE. If approved, the expansion could be a major benefit in extending the life of the landfill.

"I bet you're buying 15 years," Schmidt said. "That's the reason we're here and doing this is to get us some more space."

On top of looking into expansion, SCS Engineers was also tasked with doing a feasibility study for a brand new landfill site — which would likely be located directly east of the transfer station. Based on initial research, with 84 acres to work with on the tract of land in question, building a brand new landfill was something Linehan said could potentially buy 80 more years before the landfill would be at capacity.

With a pond on site, Linehan stated a wetland study would be required (as well as a topographic survey) before moving forward with any plans.

Building new, Linehan also recommended permitting as much as possible — including future expansion — on the initial pass, and it is an option Swartzendruber recommended the commission look into.

"I think it's still worth the money to work on doing investigation on the south side of the road because at some point in the future you're going to have choices that you're going to have to expand the C&D onto that property, onto different property or you're going to have to start hauling all the C&D over to Reno County with municipal solid waste ... or you're going to have to close your C&D landfill and only accept municipal solid waste," Swartzendruber said.

Consensus among the county commission was to move forward with expansion designs, while it also approved the feasibility study (at a cost of $16,300) on the land east of the transfer station.

"I don't have an issue with that. I think it's money well spent," said Commissioner Randy Hague. "This is a decision we're making not for our generation, we're making it for the next generation or two."