The company responsible for running Juneau's landfill is taking steps to reduce the odor emitted by the decomposing garbage. (Courtesy photo / Mark Frisco, Waste Management)

Changes underway at landfill to reduce odors

Some fixes have already been carried out.

Juneau residents in the Lemon Creek area may have noticed the landfill has been more fragrant of late.

The company responsible for running the facility is making changes, some taking effect this month, some already complete, to stem the potency of the unasked-for aroma, said a Waste Management spokesperson.

“There have been some temporary issues connected to the pandemic, construction and equipment,” said Jackie Lang, a spokesperson for Waste Management. “The pandemic resulted in product delays when our vendor was unable to perform certain jobs on schedule.”

Those jobs include building 40 new gas collection wells, which are essential to managing the landfill gas. The wells are due to to be completed by the end of the month, Lang said. Technicians also repaired the flare system, which burns off excess gas, before the new year, Lang said.

“Landfill gas is created when garbage decomposes inside the landfill,” Lang said. “The site has a landfill gas management system designed to manage the gas safely and manage the odor.”

There have been some changeups in personnel, including bringing on Mike Mahaffey to manage the landfill, Lang said.

“There’s been some other personnel changes. I think (Mahaffey) has almost a full crew,” Lang said. “I don’t think it’s been anything unusual.”

The landfill is also retooling its operations, including reducing the size of the working face and improving the cover process, which will reduce the odors emitted, Lang said. The landfill will also have a new area for members of the public to dispose of waste, rather than the current system where they drive onto the working area itself, Lang said.

The long view

In the longer run, the city is looking toward ways to extend the lifespan of the landfill, including no-waste plans or other alternatives, said Engineering and Public Works Division director Katie Koester.

“Waste Management has been presenting on what they’re doing to control odor,” Koester said. “The Zero Waste plan is a bigger, more ambitious measure. That is a community wide effort.”

There are a number of ideas currently being considered, Koester said. All of them will rely on Juneau residents

“One of the most important things when you embark upon a project is that the community is invested. I think Juneau is,” Koester said. “The community has to do all those things. CBJ can provide facilities for some of those. But CBJ can’t make the community use less trash or recycle their kitchen cabinets.”

The ideas are focused on handling Juneau’s waste in a manner that doesn’t involve high expense or risk, Koester said.

“A lot of communities in the Southeast barge their trash out,” Koester said. “I think there’s something Juneau would like to avoid.”

A new landfill was another option, but with space in Juneau already limited, the Public Works and Facilities Committee sought a different option, Koester said.

“One of the things that the committee had talked about was siting for a new landfill. That is something they decided not to pursue,” Koester said. “The better option would be to reduce waste before siting for another landfill.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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