LOCKPORT - The cap on a long-closed Lockport landfill is failing, leading the county Refuse Disposal District to make plans for potentially expensive improvements.
The district is negotiating a contract with a team of two engineering firms to design a solution to leaks from Landfill 1, one of three landfills the district owns off the Lockport Bypass.
Landfill 1 operated from 1972 to 1986 and contains 1.4 billion pounds of waste. Almost half was Lockport residential garbage, but about 40 percent was industrial waste, including 245 million pounds of sludge from the former Harrison Radiator plant, now GM Components.
The 12-acre landfill was closed in accordance with 1980s standards, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation has changed the rules since then. It has "historically been a problematic landfill in the regulatory sense," Refuse District Director Richard P. Pope said.
Landfill 1 has a 2-foot thick clay cap and no liner to catch leachate. That was legal in 1986 but not now.
"The cap that was placed on the landfill has not worked," said Christopher A. Burns, vice president of CHA Consulting, formerly Clough Harbour Associates. "DEC has the statutory authority to reopen the case."
A new clay cap meeting the DEC's current standards was estimated two years ago to cost $12 million.
CHA and LiRo Engineers are negotiating a joint contract with the Refuse District.
Jeffrey R. Perkins of LiRo said it could involve a blocking wall or the digging of a "storm drain" to collect the leaks. The cost has not been determined.
Pope said the landfill sits atop fractured bedrock. The county has tried several moves to avoid a big bill to repair Landfill 1. It tried to get the DEC to reclassify it into a more hazardous rating, in hopes the state would have to pay 75 percent of the repair cost. The DEC didn't bite.
In 2008, the district sued the DEC to try to force the reclassification, but in January 2010 the district admitted defeat, dropped the suit and later accepted a consent order.
Perkins said the study by the two engineering firms will determine where the leachate is coming from and what's in it. He didn't know how long that would take.