After months of sleuthing, Berkeley County finally has determined the source of the noxious odor coming from its landfill. Better yet, officials also know what to do about it. That is welcome news to the long-suffering residents and business people near the sprawling site off of U.S. Highway 52.
Landfills naturally put off foul smells from time to time, but this particularly pungent odor lingered for months. Residents of nearby neighborhoods said the smell permeated everything, The Post and Courier’s Ricky Ciapha Dennis Jr. recently reported.
“It’s in our cars. It’s in our homes. ... It’s literally invading every space,” said Marki Williams, who lives in Foxbank subdivision. “We’ll come from work and think it doesn’t smell outside right now. We’ll walk in our house and it’s like the smell is trapped in the house.”
A business owner complained that the smell drove away customers and, in a troubling development, Ms. Williams reported that her son had awakened at night gagging and vomiting, and headaches have caused him to miss school. That moved the problem from a major annoyance to an unacceptable health issue.
Berkeley County Water & Sanitation tried to track down the source and took action to combat the smell, but the odor persisted. The county then turned to the private firm SCS Engineers. After sinking eight probes into the landfill, gathering samples and shipping them to California for testing, SCS determined that the culprit was hydrogen sulfide, according to its report.
It turns out that the problem began when construction and demolition debris was diverted from the landfill where those materials normally are buried and instead were put into the municipal solid waste landfill. That was done for several months last year while the construction and demolition debris site was undergoing a five-acre expansion.
But C&D debris can include drywall, which contains gypsum, a substance that can produce hydrogen sulfide gas when exposed to water or moisture under anaerobic conditions within municipal solid waste. The problem was exacerbated when 11 inches of rain fell on the area in December.
Similar odor impacts from drywall in landfills are documented in technical papers published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. The problems have been reported at numerous landfills across the country.
Thankfully, SCS gave the county suggestions for addressing the smell. Those include building a stormwater diversion berm, maintaining a carbon scrubber and immediately placing soil over the landfill’s Cell 13, where the offending odor is strongest.
The report adds that county officials have agreed to install pipes at the landfill that will suck gas from the waste and place it into another system, instead of emitting the odor into the air.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control gave the county until Feb. 16 to meet the requirements outlined by SCS to eliminate the odor. Let’s hope those fixes eliminate the problem. After all, residents and business people deserve to finally be free of the noxious odor they have suffered with for months.