ALBANY, N.Y. -- One of the biggest landfill management problems that municipalities face is leachate treatment. Leachate is water that percolates through waste, collecting various contaminants such as metals and organic compounds. It presents a problem for landfills because federal regulations require that it be collected, treated, and disposed of properly. For Franklin County, proper disposal has meant shipping the leachate to the nearby sewage treatment plant at an annual cost of about $400,000.
Many larger landfills avoid shipping leachate for treatment by treating the leachate on-site. On-site treatment has not been possible for Franklin County, New York because it traditionally requires expensive equipment, making it practical for only the largest landfills that produce more than 40 million gallons of leachate per year. Thanks to a new technology and some state support, Franklin County may be able to substantially lower the costs for on- site treatment.
An innovative technology made by TerraClean of Staten Island may change the economics of on-site leachate treatment. With support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Franklin County will demonstrate TerraClean's technology. The initial pilot-scale system will help the county determine if a full-scale system will be feasible. NYSERDA is supporting the research in the hopes that a successful demonstration will help other communities in the state implement similar leachate treatment alternatives.
"What' s particularly exciting about this project is that we're supporting made-in-New-York technology to address Franklin County's leachate treatment needs," said NYSERDA President F. William Valentino. "Collecting leachate and transporting it to wastewater treatment facilities is an energy-intensive and expensive practice for many municipalities. TerraClean's system has the potential to bring on-site treatment options to smaller communities, which is a more economical approach to leachate treatment. It could also help the county avoid the expense of building additional leachate storage capacity."
As the county's landfill continues to grow, there is pressure to identify a feasible alternative to the existing leachate treatment practice. If no alterative is identified, the county would be required to construct an additional leachate storage tank. The estimated cost for this storage facility is $1 million.
"We're pleased to be working with NYSERDA and TerraClean on this project," said Gary Mulverhill, Chairman of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management Authority Board. "It's important for Franklin County to develop a practical alternative to our leachate treatment practices and we welcome the assistance we're receiving from the state. We're also working with a New York company, which is important because if our project is successful we will have a role in helping this company grow and provide jobs for our fellow New Yorkers."
For the project, TerraClean will construct a pilot plant to treat the leachate with bioreactors containing specialized bacteria. Once the leachate is collected, it passes through these bioreactors where the bacteria extract the heavy metals and pollutants contained in the leachate.
According to Bob DeSaro, President of TerraClean, "Our bioreactors are effective in treating a wide variety of chemicals and metals that are either suspended or dissolved in water. Our system is compact and inexpensive to install and operate." He noted, "NYSERDA's involvement gives us the next important step in our development: its demonstration to the public."
The treatment facility is compact, requiring only 200 square feet of space. One project goal is to determine final disposal options for the treated leachate. Additional goals of the project are to determine the total costs and impacts of the new system compared to the conventional method, as well as determine if the metals captured by the reactors can be economically recycled.
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