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March 17, 2011

Oswego County Solid Waste Looks Outside the Box to Treat Landfill Leachate

VOLNEY - Oswego County will be taking its commitment to be a greener municipality to a new level this spring when the Department of Solid Waste begins an experiment using bacteria to remove ammonia from landfill leachate. The County Legislature recently approved a pilot agreement between the county and the Village of Minoa to run a bench test to treat samples of leachate from the Bristol Hill Landfill.

Oswego County is required to treat leachate from the landfill because of the high concentration of ammonia in sewage sludge generated by the City of Oswego treatment plants. The sludge was accepted at the Bristol Hill Landfill for several years.

"We started noticing increases of the ammonia concentration in the leachate after approximately four years, and the county had several meetings with the city in an attempt to resolve the situation and have the ammonia levels reduced," said County Legislator Jim Oldenburg, District 14, chairman of the Legislature's Infrastructure and Facilities Committee. "In the last two years ammonia levels in the leachate have risen to a level that exceeds the permitted maximum discharge."

The county brings leachate from the Bristol Hill Landfill to the Fulton wastewater treatment plant for disposal. Last July the City of Fulton was forced by the rules of the federal Environmental Protection Agency to require Oswego County to reduce the ammonia levels in its leachate.

"Although Oswego is no longer sending its sludge to Bristol Hill, the landfill leachate remains high in ammonia from the many years that the county accepted the sludge," said Frank Visser, Oswego County Solid Waste Director. "Our department investigated all possible treatment methods for the removal of ammonia and found that mechanical, electrical and chemical treatment methods are very costly, and several methods are not suitable for our climate."

Filtering the leachate by treating it with bacteria is one of the options the county is considering to solve the problem. The other is to build a wetland on top of the landfill.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has agreed that using a constructed wetland to remove ammonia from the leachate is an acceptable treatment method. Visser said the DEC referred him to the village of Minoa, where in addition to using wetlands, they have had experience in using trickling filters in their wastewater treatment program.

"We've determined that it's worth a relatively small amount of money to run a test on a bench scale trickling filter in order to establish whether or not this may be a viable treatment method," said Visser. "If the testing proves this method does not work, then testing will cease and the payment to Minoa will be $4,990; if testing is successful an additional $4,990 will be paid and the county will receive a report which will outline the parameters for constructing a trickling filter to treat the landfill leachate."

Ammonia-eating bacteria will be introduced to the leachate to see if they reproduce enough to filter the leachate. The experiment will last 30 to 60 days.

"If it works, it could save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Oldenburg.

The Legislature's Infrastructure and Facilities Committee oversees the solid waste management system. In addition to Oldenburg, committee members include vice chairwoman Barbara Brown, District 8; Daniel Chalifoux, District 19; Mark Fruce, District 24; Linda Lockwood, District 11; Milferd Potter, District 2; and Amy Tresidder, District 16.

For more information on Oswego County solid waste programs, call 591-9210 or visit oswegocounty.com/dsw.

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