2013-07-11 / News

Town begins work on closing landfill

By Margo Sullivan

Out of view, work is finally progressing to close the landfill, according to Town Engineer Mike Gray.

The Town Council earlier this year made closing the North Road landfill one of its top priorities. The goal was to complete the work by the end of the year.

The town closed the landfill in May 1984, but continues to use it as a transfer station. The trash is hauled to the Central Landfill in Johnston.

The final landfill closure has been pending for more than 20 years. In 1999, the state Department of Environmental Management and the town agreed to enter into a site remediation plan to ensure the final closure would be completed properly.

Since then, with the landfill still not closed, a community group has contacted the state about the potential danger if contamination from the landfill entered the town’s water supply. Rosemary Forbes-Woodside, one of the leaders of the Conanicut Concerned Citizens, went on the record a year ago to say the town was supposed to cap the landfill in the 1990s, but the work was never undertaken.

The closure plan was more than a decade in the making, but the Department of Environmental Management in September 2011 finally approved it.

The project is expected to take two years, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said earlier. Town employees are doing the work, and GZA GeoEnvironmental has been hired to manage the project.

Gray said public works employees were working on grading the cap and were not visible from the road. However, the staff is on the job and GZA’s consultants are also checking in at the site.

On July 1, the council awarded contracts to New England Hydroseed and Dry Bridge Sand & Stone for work on the landfill closure. Both companies are based in North Kingstown.

New England Hydroseed was awarded the bid to hydroseed the landfill cap. Dry Bridge will supply the fill materials. Both were Gray’s recommendations.

Dry Bridge bid to provide soil suitable for planting at a price of $13.79 per ton. The company also bid $11.79 per ton for vegetative support soil and $12.79 per ton for gravel fill.

New England Hydroseed won the other contract for bidding an amount not to exceed 42 cents per square yard.

Gray described the materials as “top soil for the cap.” He said the earthen cap must be covered by 2 feet of soil “over any area that was landfill,” per the agreement that the town reached with the state.

The topsoil cover includes 6 inches of loam to support vegetation. The vegetation is being planted so roots will trap rainwater and prevent it from seeping into the trash under the cap.

The crews are grading 10 acres of the landfill as part of the project, also required by the agreement. The purpose is to redirect rainwater.

Lastly, the gravel fill is material that will be used under the roads. According to the plan, the town is required to cap any paved landfill sections that cover trash.

The low bidder for the landfill materials was not awarded the contract. According to Gray, that company could not satisfy requirements put forward by the Department of Environmental Management. Therefore, the contract was given to the second lowest bidder.

At the Town Council’s July 1 meeting, Councilor Mary Meagher asked Gray why he was ready to move ahead with this phase of closing the landfill. Earlier, he had voiced some concerns about the schedule of work on the project.

Gray said he freed some time for the landfill job because he decided to postpone work on a High Street water main.

Moreover, the decision to do the work in-house, rather than outsource it, was saving the town money. Gray said it gives the town more control of the work, especially during weather delays. He said the heavy June rainfall would have resulted in cost overruns if the town had hired a private contractor. Public works employees are just reassigned to other jobs, he said, when they can’t do the work at the landfill due to weather.

“The town benefits,” he said. “We save money. We control the schedule.”

In addition to the grading, Gray said the town’s Tree Preservation & Protection Committee is working on perimeter planting for the landfill. The planting was included in the plan approved by the state.

The councilors on July 1 also unanimously voted to go out to bond for $1 million to cover expenses related to the landfill closure. In November 2011, voters approved a $1 million bond to pay for the project. GZA has estimated the costs of the job at more than $800,000. Kesier said earlier the bond interest could run around $35,000 annually, depending on the interest rate the town is charged.

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