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Easthampton takes steps to address landfill gas spread

The City Council has approved $34,300 for the design of a landfill gas ventilation system to limit the spread of landfill gas toward homes north of the capped landfill on Oliver Street.

The $175,000 project to install the system is in response to a recommendation from the state Department of Environmental Protection following high gas readings north of the landfill.

“We’re pretty confident this will work,” Mayor Michael A. Tautznik said of the system.

Generated by the breakdown of organic material in the dump, the gas is mostly methane and carbon dioxide, although organic and non-organic hazardous air pollutants have also been detected in landfill gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The gas migration is monitored because if it collects in a confined space, such as a basement, it can be hazardous to those breathing it and could explode if highly concentrated.

The issue of gas migration from the Oliver Street landfill toward the homes, located on Park Hill Road just over the Northampton line, was first raised in 2010, when the DEP required Easthampton to install more wells along the northern border to monitor landfill gas there. Testing of the new wells showed that levels of landfill gas were sometimes over the DEP limit.

In response, DEP gave the city several options to mitigate the spread of gas toward the homes, and the city opted to install 14 wells to vent landfill gas just north of the landfill. The DEP approved the city’s plan in October.

The city’s consultant, an engineering firm called Kleinfelder that specializes in gas and oil issues, reported to the DEP that the landfill gas apparently escapes laterally to the north because the soil there is permeable sand.

Tautznik added that another factor could be the large bales of felt that the landfill accepted during the 1970s and 1980s from National Nonwovens, then called National Felt.

“They would make a three-sided cell with bales of felt and then fill the middle with trash,” he said of the dumping practices. He said the “walls of felt” prevent gas from “moving in a predictable fashion.”

He said the wells are tested quarterly and the city and DEP will continue to monitor the situation.

Leaky roof fix

A $1.8 million project to replaced the leaking roof of the William E. Norris School was approved by a vote of 87 to 3 at a special Town Meeting Feb. 5.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has pledged to reimburse the town for 55 percent of the cost of the project, $989,584, if it is completed by Aug. 30. That would leave the town on the hook for $809,660, said Hampshire Regional School District Superintendent Craig Jurgensen.

“I’m very pleased. We need a new roof,” Select Board member and Highway Superintendent Edward J. Cauley said after the meeting. “And when you could be getting 55 percent, you have to consider it.”

Some of the 90 residents in attendance questioned what kind of guarantee the town would have that the roof would hold up. The roof has been repaired numerous times since the school was built in the 1950s, and when it was last replaced in 1987, it started leaking again before the repair project was even complete.

John D. MacMillan of Reinhardt Associates Inc., the project’s engineer, said the roof would have a warranty that would cover materials for repairs for 20 years and labor for the first two years.

Jurgensen said that because the $1.8 million will be borrowed, voters would also have to approve it on the ballot of the annual Town Election in May. He said he hopes a contractor will begin the work before the end of the school year and complete it during summer vacation.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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