When the old Ford County landfill on 113 Road closed in October of 1996, the county was required by law to monitor and maintain the site for a minimum of 30 years.

After more than two decades, the old landfill has held up remarkably well, according to foreman Brian Herbert. Population growth and extensive building near the site have finally created a need for maintenance and upgrades to some of the vital monitoring equipment.

The landfill property has 18 monitoring wells used to analyze water quality and methane emissions. Herbert said most were put in place even prior to the facility closing.

Since 2016, the water level in several of the wells has fallen to the point where accurate readings are difficult, and Herbert said two are entirely dry. Some wells have seen a decline of five feet in just two years.

While the prolonged drought doesn't help water levels, Herbert said officials from the county's environmental consultant Terracon told him other factors have likely driven the local water table down.

Aside from population changes, several buildings have been constructed next to the site since the closing in 1996. The Ford County EMS building is on the property as well as the county jail and road department. There is also a city water well adjacent to the old landfill that is likely drawing the water table down.

"The city has expanded so we have more water usage," Herbert said. "We think that's probably more of the cause. There's just a lot more out there than there was when that landfill was operating."

The old pumps will be pulled and new bladders and tubing installed. Terracon will probably not have to drill new holes or deepen current wells, as wells were drilled with some room beneath them for just this situation.

Landfills don't just sit there once their usable space is filled. Materials decay and degrade and officials must monitor not only water quality and gases formed in the decomposition process, but surface disturbances caused by subterranean shifting. Effective planning when the site was operational has ensured safe outcomes since that time.

Herbert said the landfill has seen only one minor issue creep up since being shutdown; some industrial salts were leeching to the surface in a small section, killing off the vegetation growth landfill engineers count on to remediate the land. County workers were able to dig out the area, repack the four-foot surface layer, and new growth sprouted soon after.

With safe marks for no contamination throughout its history, the county is now required by the state of Kansas to measure and monitor water quality just once a year. Methane testing is conducted quarterly.

The approximately $7,000 required for the well project is essentially the first significant expenditure from the landfill closed over two decades ago.

"All that equipment and tubing has been out there over 25 years," Herbert said. "That's pretty inexpensive for something that's been in place that long."

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