Abandoned Landfill Project Completed in Popular Nature Sanctuary

Raven Run is a 734-acre nature sanctuary in Fayette County located off Jacks Creek Pike. The sanctuary is open daily and visited by more than 32,000 people annually; however, most people don’t know that a former county landfill was situated within the 10 miles of hiking trails.

The Red Trail at Raven Run is enjoyed by thousands each year. Credit: Virginia Lewis
The Red Trail at Raven Run is enjoyed by thousands each year. Credit: Virginia Lewis

Fayette County accepted household wastes, industrial wastes and construction/demolition debris at Jacks Creek Pike landfill during the late 1960s and early 70s. Following a fire in 1971, the landfill stopped accepting waste, was covered with a layer of soil and abandoned. In 2002, the Kentucky Legislature established a program to clean up orphaned or abandoned landfills – now called the Historic Landfill Program. Jacks Creek Pike landfill was placed on the priority list for cleanup because of its potential threat to human health and the environment. It is situated in a ravine with natural springs flowing through it, and it produced a large volume of leachate.

The Historic Landfill Program, carried out by the Kentucky Division of Waste Management’s Solid Waste Branch Closure Section, is supervised by Tammi Hudson, a professional engineer for the division. “We worked with our consultant, Tetra Tech Inc., and Lexington’s Parks and Recreation Department to choose a nondisruptive technology to remediate the leachate,” said Hudson. “Phytoremediation, which uses green plants to clean up soils and remove pollutants from the environment, was selected because it provides dual benefits by reducing the quantity of leachate while maintaining the sanctuary’s natural landscape. As trees mature, their roots uptake and remove contaminants from the leachate.”

According to Hudson, as funding became available, plans were developed to consolidate the waste into a smaller footprint, install a passive leachate collection system, replace the cap and plant trees on the landfill. With the help of Tetra Tech and the contractor, PECCO Inc., construction began on Dec. 12, 2011.

To minimize construction disturbance to Raven Run’s visitors, cell phones and a mobile hot spot were used for communication and Internet service, eliminating the need for temporary overhead utility lines. Equipment and materials also were staged away from main trails, and construction activity was not visible from the nature center.

Raven Run during construction. Credit: Kentucky Division of Waste Management
Raven Run during construction. Credit: Kentucky Division of Waste Management

In the first phase of the project, approximately 25,850 cubic yards of municipal waste and construction/demolition debris were consolidated and moved upstream 100 yards to fill the valley of the former municipal landfill and reduce the landfill footprint from 8.7 acres to 6.7 acres. Moving the waste upstream allowed the division to isolate a natural stream and redirect the water flow to a diversion ditch resulting in a decrease of more than 10,000 gallons per day of leachate being generated. A passive gravity system was installed, carrying any remaining leachate through a rock filled bioswale.

The next phase of work was installing the phytoremediation cap. An estimated 27,800 cubic yards of backfill and topsoil were trucked from an off-site area to the nature sanctuary, and final contouring of the land was achieved within 28 days. Native species of water-loving trees, such as sycamores and poplars, were randomly planted. At completion, the disturbed 11 acres will be repopulated with more than 5,000 trees to provide a natural environment on the former municipal waste landfill. Native grass seed, including buffalo and Indian grass, was also broadcast in areas where the waste had been removed.

The old landfill site at Raven Run is now covered with native trees and grasses that will help remove pollutants from the soil in a process called phytoremediation. Credit: Virginia Lewis
The old landfill site at Raven Run is now covered with native trees and grasses that will help remove pollutants from the soil in a process called phytoremediation. Credit: Virginia Lewis

“We worked diligently to keep activities at the park uninterrupted, minimize disturbance to surrounding homes, and maintain the natural beauty of this popular park,” said Kentucky Division of Waste Management Director, Tony Hatton.

“As a testament to the staff’s attention to detail, construction was halted on a diversion ditch to relocate a nest of five turtles to a new habitat,” said Hudson.

The Raven Run Jacks Creek Pike landfill project was completed on June 26, 2012, and was recently featured in the Energy and Environment Cabinet magazine, Land, Air & Water (Winter 2013 issue, Page 6).

According to division records, more than 600 of these sites are scattered across the state and are marked for cleanup. For more information on the Historic Landfill Program and associated projects, go to the Kentucky Division of Waste Management 2012 Annual Report (Page 10) or contact:

Tammi Hudson, P.E., Closure Section Supervisor
Solid Waste Branch, Kentucky Division of Waste Management
200 Fair Oaks Lane, 2nd Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: 502-564-6716, ext. 4660

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