By Philip Haldiman
Peoria is spending about $250,000 to remove and dispose of 4,000 cubic yards of landfill debris near 103rd and Olive avenues.
Adina Lund, development and engineering director, said the trash was found beneath the surface along the roadway and under a portion of the roadway.
She said the debris material came from the long closed Glendale Landfill adjacent to the project area. Landfill waste found included a mixture of soil, plastic, rubber, metal, wood, aluminum cans, milk cartons, glass bottles, paper, metal, wood, tires, rubber, metal and landscape debris, according to a geotechnical report.
An investigation as part of a project to improve 103rd Avenue between Northern and Olive avenues found the debris to be non-hazardous material, which Ms. Lund said, allows the city to excavate it and dispose of it in a traditional landfill.
Ms. Lund said the improvement project was initiated years ago due to complaints about the roadway condition south of Olive Avenue on 103rd Avenue. She said the city has been getting complaints for a number of years regarding pavement failure, poor drainage conditions, differential settlement and vandalism to the chain link fence surrounding the old Glendale Landfill.
She said a geotechnical investigation is a common step in the development process required to identify possible environmental issues during the preliminary planning of a project.
The study, conducted by AMEC Environment & Infrastructure, performed at least 14 soil borings and found no volatile organic compounds or landfill gases. Landfill waste material was found in three borings that should be removed prior to or during construction activities. The waste removal activities should be conducted by a contractor who has the experience and proper licensing to transport the waste material, the report added.
“We need it excavate it. Then we can bring in clean materials and proper methods,” Ms. Lund said. “This will be the base for building the new roadway.”
Ms. Lund said because landfills were not as regulated when the Glendale Landfill was active, Glendale is not liable for the removal of the debris.
“Glendale did nothing wrong. It is something that was discovered in our investigation and was not intentional,” she said. “The trash was not contained to the parcel due to the lack of regulations at the time.”
The 17.4-acre Glendale Landfill was used for general municipal solid waste disposal, but is believed to have closed May of 1969.
Glendale spokesman Van Ornelas said the city does not know when the owners first started using the site as a landfill. He said that by 1976, the site was purchased and redeveloped by the developers of the Country Meadows subdivision that now encompasses the area of 107th Avenue from Olive to Northern avenues. Mr. Ornelas said that Peoria Pines Golf and Restaurant as well as Good Samaritan Society – Peoria Good Shepherd senior living community were built on the site by 1980.
Today all that remains of the city-owned Glendale Landfill is a vacant strip of land south of Olive Avenue along 103rd Avenue that runs south to the golf course.
Mr. Ornelas said the Glendale Landfill complied with all regulatory standards that were in effect at the time it was active. In 1998, Glendale installed a barrier liner and methane recovery system to prevent off-site migration of methane gas, he said.
“The city has been proactive in conducting environmental assessments of the property and has not observed any hazardous materials,” he said. “Surface water drainage and vegetative growth has been controlled and the methane recovery system has been upgraded since that time. The city’s methane recovery system remains very effective and there is no risk to the public.”
Removals not uncommon
Modern landfills are well-engineered and managed facilities for the disposal of solid waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. They are located, designed, operated and monitored to ensure compliance with federal regulations and are designed to protect the environment from contaminants, which may be present in the waste stream.
Additionally, landfills cannot be built in environmentally-sensitive areas, and are monitored regularly, according to the EPA.
However, landfills were not heavily regulated while the Glendale Landfill was active. Regulation of municipal solid waste has evolved over the years ever since the U.S. Public Health Service created a regulation preventing contact between refuse and ground water.
New federal rules became effective in 1993 restricting municipal solid waste facility locations to ensure that landfills are built in suitable geological areas and enacting composite liner requirements to protect groundwater.
Edward Kavazanjian, Arizona State University professor and geotechnical engineering director, said debris removals like the one Peoria will conduct are not uncommon, and removing the waste is very prudent in protecting the road in the future.
He also said it is not unusual to find waste beyond the limits of such a landfill property, and that it is standard procedure to remove the landfill material and replace it with clean soil.
“At the time (of the Glendale Landfill), it was probably in the middle of nowhere and then development encroached,” Mr. Kavazanjian said. “It sounds like the city is performing the proper steps,”
There are numerous examples of redeveloped landfills.
A former landfill became the Rio Salado Restoration Habitat in south Phoenix, now 600 acres of protected land featuring trails and a habitat for more than 100 Burrowing Owls.
Additionally, the 64-acre Paseo Vista Recreation Area in Chandler near McQueen and Ocotillo roads opened in 2010. It was built on a landfill that closed in October 2005 and had been in operation since 1979.
Mr. Kavazanjian said there could be many good development options for land that was once a landfill.
“For municipal solid waste, with the proper engineering controls, virtually anything is possible and has been done, including housing developments, not that I would recommend that,” he said. “I worked on the municipal solid waste portion of a superfund site in Los Angeles where the owner was planning on putting a big box store on top of the waste. They did remove waste beneath what became a freeway ramp, but left it in place under the footprint of the store.”
Peoria City Council recently approved a $3 million contract with Tempe-based Nesbitt Contracting Company to perform the road improvements on 103rd Avenue. Construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed by summer 2019.
The project is part of the city’s Fiscal Year 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Program.
Jon Chorover, professor and head of the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at University of Arizona, said the effects that a landfill has next to a community depends very much on the specifics of the landfill, what it contains, and how it connects to surrounding water bodies.
“If the landfill is well capped, does not contain hazardous materials, and there is no connection between the landfill and groundwater supplies that are used for drinking purposes, then there is little to be concerned about,” he said. “In cases when landfills contain hazardous materials that leach into groundwater that is then tapped by wells for potable use, then there is a need for treating the water to eliminate the contaminants prior to ingestion, or there would be potential human health effects that need to be evaluated.”
Peoria City Council recently approved a $3 million contract with Tempe-based Nesbitt Contracting Company to perform road improvements on 103rd Avenue. Construction is expected to begin in fall and completed by summer 2019.
Proposed improvements to 103rd Avenue include:
- Removal of landfill material
- Storm drain pipes and drainage basins
- 5’ wide concrete sidewalks on both sides
- ADA ramps
- Aesthetic landscaping improvements within a raised median
- Pavement and subgrade reconstruction