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Sunday, January 22, 2006
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Expert to help measure landfill waste

By James Bruggers
The Courier-Journal

Louisville officials are looking for help to determine how quickly the Outer Loop Landfill is filling up.

Officials can't tell whether an experimental process for digesting and compacting waste is working as well as the landfill's manager, Waste Management Inc., had promised. So they have hired a University of Louisville expert to help them.

What they find will help them determine whether Waste Management can go ahead with hauling in more trash from outside Jefferson County.

Figuring out how long the landfill will last before reaching capacity is an important issue for area residents, said David Brown Kinloch, a member of the Louisville Metro Solid Waste Advisory Board, which consults with metro government on waste and recycling matters.

It's likely to be the last municipal landfill in Jefferson County because of space and environmental concerns, he said. Once it's full, more of the area's trash will have to be hauled farther way, potentially costing residents more, he warned.

"We need to make the one (landfill) we've got last a long time," he said.

The landfill should last at least another 40 years, said Bob Schindler, metro solid waste manager.

Waste Management officials have said they want to make the landfill last longer too, and in recent years they've won approval for both an expansion and a national pilot project they call "bioreacting." It involves putting more air, water and chemicals into the landfill to speed the growth of microorganisms that digest waste.

But last summer, a Waste Management engineer, Kevin M. Mieczkowski, told the metro solid waste department that the company could not meet the terms of an agreement that said it would achieve space savings of 8 percent to 30 percent a year -- in part because degradation does not occur at the same rate over time.

Company officials did not return telephone calls Friday, but in an earlier interview, Waste Management spokeswoman Kathy Trent said a practical measuring method was needed.

That's where Donald Hagerty comes in. The civil and environmental engineering professor will be paid up to $2,000 to develop a method to accurately measure the reduction in volume.

"I think this is very complicated," Hagerty told the waste advisory committee last week. "We have to figure out what's going on, and we have to figure out how to measure it."

He's agreed to give a progress report to the advisory board on Feb. 15.

Reporter James Bruggers can be reached at (502) 582-4645.

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