Be Conscientious About What Goes into Our Landfill!
What is landfill leachate? Leachate is defined as a liquid (mostly water) that percolates through the garbage and picks up any organic or inorganic substance in its path. If there are toxic liquids or solids in the path through which the leachate travels these toxins may be adsorbed or absorbed by the leachate. The City of El Paso landfill contains cells that reach a height of 90 feet. This means leachate has the opportunity to absorb or adsorb at any point in its path, any hazardous component. Leachate travels by gravity to the bottom of each cell where there is a pipe collection system with sump tank to collect all leachate within that cell. It is against the law to dispose of any hazardous waste at city landfill. Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment and is listed in the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA).
Why is this important to the community? Hazardous waste can find its way to the bottom of a cell and start destroying the plastic liner that is in place to protect our groundwater. If a hole or crack is developed in the liner, toxins can make their way into our groundwater system. In addition to this catastrophic problem, leachate is transported and disposed of at the local wastewater treatment plant. The El Paso Water Utilities must analyze samples prior to disposal. This laboratory testing is very costly. If any chemicals exceed levels deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) then the leachate must be disposed of at a liquid waste disposal facility. There currently is not a liquid waste disposal facility within 300 miles of El Paso. Hence, the cost to dispose of this leachate increases dramatically. These costs must then be passed on to the ratepayers of El Paso.
Although the Department of Environment Services has personnel to screen waste and staff is trained on waste screening by an institute approved by TCEQ, in the end the department relies on its citizens to be conscientious about what they are disposing of at the landfill. Some common examples of Hazardous Waste are: swimming pool chemicals, degreasers, batteries, medicine, petroleum products, pesticides, thermometers (filled with mercury), etc. For more information, go to the following EPA website: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/hazwaste.htm.