Meyers landfill gets clean-up |

Meyers landfill gets clean-up

by Andy Bourelle

Workers have started the first stage of cleanup at the old Meyers Landfill in an effort to stop a plume of carcinogenic chemicals from reaching nearby Saxon Creek.

A full-scale cleanup operation to take care of the abandoned landfill’s vinyl chloride contamination likely will be started next spring. However, officials want the partial, one-well remediation system being installed now to run through the winter.

“That’s what we’re hoping to do, have an interim system,” said James Brathovde, associate engineering geologist for the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “It’s not a full capture, but if it’s reasonable we’re pushing for them to continue pumping from that one well for the winter.”

There are no drinking water wells in the area that could be threatened by the contamination.

From the 1950s to 1970s, a Joint Powers Authority – El Dorado County, South Lake Tahoe and Douglas County – deposited garbage in the landfill. After the jurisdictions stopped using it, officials filled in the hole.

Located near Elks Club Road and Pioneer Trial, the area now is a grassy field. But below the soil is a 20-foot-thick layer of garbage covering about 15 acres.

Vinyl chloride comes from the degradation of compounds such as automobile de-greaser and dry-cleaning solvents.

Little hits of vinyl chloride were discovered by monitoring in the early 1990s. In 1996, officials discovered the plume had moved 30 feet. In 1997 and 1999, the Joint Powers Authority drilled more monitoring wells in the area to define the extent of contamination. Results from earlier this summer show that the plume now has grown to at least 1,400 feet.

Officials have found vinyl chloride in the groundwater at levels as high as 40 and 50 parts per billion. The maximum contaminant level for the carcinogenic chemical is 0.5 parts per billion.

The U.S. Forest Service owns the land and has ultimate liability for the cleanup. However, the members of the Joint Powers Authority are committed to the cleanup.

Sue Norman, on-site coordinator for the Forest Service, said the latest round of testing has found trace amounts of the vinyl chloride in Saxon Creek, which runs into Trout Creek. While the traces are below any action levels, Norman said the Forest Service and Lahontan don’t want those amounts to increase.

“What they’re concerned about is if the plume keeps moving (the trace amounts) might change,” she said. “It hasn’t affected any drinking water wells; I think the concern is Saxon Creek. And the other thing Lahontan is concerned about is it prohibits drilling any new drinking water wells near there. That’s a concern with all the wells shut down because of MTBE.”

Last week, Forest Service-hired contractors began drilling a treatment well at the landfill. Officials plan to pump the contaminated water out of the ground and treat it with carbon filters. They want to release the cleaned water into the South Tahoe Public Utility District’s sewer. However, before they can do that, this week they are treating 200,000 gallons of the water and storing it in 10 tankers at the site. Once officials have tested the treated water to make sure it is clean, then it will be released to the sewer, and the system likely can run through the winter.

“We’re doing this for two reasons: One, for a pump test to determine if this type of method will work for the full-scale remediation, and, two, to try to get control of the plume,” Norman said.

Cost of this phase of the cleanup exceeds $250,000, Norman said. The long-term operation to be implemented next year will cost more.

“This is the first essential step in designing a remediation system out there. This will help design a full-blown remediation system,” Brathovde said. “(The cleanup) is running right on schedule.”

Officials are considering building a series of playing fields over the old Meyers Landfill, a proposal officials say is certainly possible once the contamination is cleaned up.

Levels of methane gas – formed from decomposing materials – coming from the landfill have been measured and are not a risk.

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