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Easthampton moves to stop spread of landfill gas toward Northampton homes

After a recommendation from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the city is taking steps to limit the spread of landfill gas toward homes north of the capped landfill on Oliver Street.

The City Council Wednesday approved $34,300 for the design of a landfill gas ventilation system to be installed near the northern boundary of the landfill as part of a project expected to cost around $175,000.

“We’re pretty confident this will work,” Mayor Michael A. Tautznik told councilors at their meeting Wednesday.

Generated by the breakdown of organic material in the dump, the gas is mostly methane and carbon dioxide, although organic and nonorganic 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.

— REBECCA EVERETT

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