FREY FARM LANDFILL VERTICAL EXPANSION PROJECT
The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) owns and operates an award-winning Integrated System of managing solid waste that maximizes resources, while also minimizing environmental impacts. This Integrated System allows for the disposal of waste in the most environmentally beneficial manner by combining the resources of a comprehensive recycling program, Household Hazardous Waste Facility, state-of-the-art Transfer Station, two waste-to-energy facilities and the Frey Farm Landfill (FFLF).
As a result of this approach, the flow of waste to the landfill is significantly reduced, which means it will last longer and consume far less land over time. In Lancaster County, after recycling 44% and combusting 54% for green energy (electricity), only 2% of municipal solid waste (refuse) was delivered to the Frey Farm Landfill in 2014. By wisely implementing this Integrated System, LCSWMA takes a balanced approach to solid waste management that protects that land, air and water.
Nevertheless, the Frey Farm Landfill functions as an essential part of the Integrated System, serving as the end disposal facility for refuse that cannot be recycled or combusted for energy, as well as ash residue from LCSWMA’s two waste-to-energy facilities and construction/demolition waste. Moreover, over 900 businesses rely upon the Frey Farm Landfill each year for environmentally safe and cost-effective waste disposal services. Landfilling is a vital disposal solution for non-recyclable and non-combustible waste, called “residual”, like foundry sand or municipal sludge.
LCSWMA operates all its facilities with the highest level of environmental stewardship, including the Frey Farm Landfill, which is evidenced by the fact that the facility has not received a violation from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP) in over 22 years—the only municipal landfill (out of 44) in PA to achieve this perfect record of excellence.
LCSWMA secured future waste-to-energy processing capacity with the purchase of the Susquehanna Resource Management Complex (previously known as the Harrisburg incinerator) at the end of 2013. This acquisition was essential for the continued effectiveness of the Integrated System, in order to continue diverting the majority of municipal solid waste from the Frey Farm Landfill over the next 20 years. However, of equal importance is the need to obtain future landfill capacity. While incorporating waste-to-energy processing has extended the life of the Frey Farm Landfill by 18 years, current projections indicate that it will reach capacity in 2019. LCSWMA holds a social responsibility and government mandate to prepare for the long-term disposal needs of the area.
As such, LCSWMA is preparing for a vertical expansion of the Frey Farm Landfill, which will use a mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) berm. This proven industry technology would be constructed around the perimeter of the existing landfill, which would increase its height by just 50 feet, while only adding 9 acres to the current landfill footprint. This vertical expansion would provide 6.4 million cubic yards of additional capacity, which translates to 18-20 years of more disposal ability using an existing asset. LCSWMA’s sustainable approach to landfill management demonstrates a commitment to maximize facility resources and conscientious efforts to preserve valuable land.
PERMIT MODIFICATION APPLICATION
In February 2015, LCSWMA submitted an application for a major permit modification of the Frey Farm Landfill to PA-DEP to allow for a vertical expansion. This application includes two components:
The permitted height of the Frey Farm Landfill would be increased from 782 feet to 832 feet above sea level (an increase of 50 feet), while only expanding the permitted landfill footprint by 9 acres. In addition to construction of an MSE berm around the boundary of the landfill, the permit modification includes several other activities associated with construction of the vertical expansion (ex: modification of existing landfill cell caps, extensions for existing leachate collection systems, construction of new access and haul roads, etc.). LCSWMA will gain 6.4 million cubic yards of capacity through the vertical expansion, providing 18-20 years of projected disposal needs for the community.
The major permit modification application also incorporates an increase to the average daily volume (ADV) and maximum daily volume (MDV) of waste that may be disposed of at the Frey Farm Landfill. The ADV would increase from 1,500 tons per day (tpd) to 2,500 tpd and the MDV from 2,000 tpd to 3,000 tpd. Current tonnage limits were established in 1991. As such, changes to the ADV and MDV are necessary in order to:
1) account for anticipated future population growth and corresponding increased waste generation in Lancaster County;
2) maintain a reserved daily capacity that would be used in the event there is a disruption at either of LCSWMA’s waste-to-energy facilities; and
3) provide reserved capacity to accommodate special waste disposal events that occur due to natural disasters, large demolition projects and other project needs of our waste hauling customers (the business/commercial community).
As a sub-set of LCSWMA’s larger operations, the Frey Farm Landfill is a business, employing 19 individuals (including seasonal staff) and generating around $6.4 million each year in direct revenue for LCSWMA, in addition to returning over $4 million to the local community through annual operating expenses and other capital investments (ex: $1.1 million in 2014). The vertical expansion itself is expected to drive over $44 million into the local economy over the progression of the 20-year project.
The site also has a profound economic impact on the commercial sector, in that it serves the disposal needs for hundreds of local businesses and institutions. In addition to the needed disposal capacity from the vertical expansion, the tonnage volume increases described above are absolutely necessary for LCSWMA to continue providing its customers with uninterrupted service for their daily, seasonal and event-driven disposal needs (ex: ongoing waste generation, busy construction season, weather events, etc.). The current tonnage volume limits were first established almost 30 years ago and no longer reflect the reality of the current business climate. As the economic vibrancy of Lancaster County continues to flourish, LCSWMA must be well-positioned to fulfill its mandate and manage the waste delivered by residents, customers and businesses.
If PA-DEP were to not issue permit approval for the vertical expansion, the landfill will reach capacity in 2019 and that portion of the business ends. Employees would be laid off and there would be a significant economic impact beyond the direct revenue hit to LCSWMA. Business customers that deliver directly to the Frey Farm Landfill would need to find alternative, more costly disposal options outside of Lancaster County. Likewise, if PA-DEP does not approve the tonnage volume increases, LCSWMA would be faced with turning away customers once the average daily volume (calculated on a quarterly basis) and/or the maximum daily volume has been reached.
DEP PERMITTING PROCESS
The permitting process is a rather lengthy endeavor. LCSWMA anticipates it will take close to two years for PA-DEP to review and decide upon the proposed application, including the requested vertical expansion disposal capacity and increased tonnage volume limits. As part of the review process, PA-DEP holds several meetings to give both local officials and the general public an opportunity to learn about the project, ask questions and provide feedback. LCSWMA hopes to begin construction of the vertical expansion project in 2017, to be ready by 2019 when current permitted capacity at the Frey Farm Landfill is reached.
ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY
LCSWMA was founded to serve the public, both residents and businesses, by providing environmentally safe, reliable and efficient disposal of solid waste delivered by the local community. LCSWMA recognizes the impact of its Integrated System, including the Frey Farm Landfill, on the daily lives of those who reside, work and recreate in Lancaster County. As such, LCSWMA supports projects and initiatives that improve the livability of the region. Examples include investing over $4 million in developing parks, recreational trails and open space, as well as financially supporting organizations, like the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area and the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, to foster economic development in the Rivertown communities of both Lancaster and York Counties.
In relation to the Frey Farm Landfill vertical expansion, LCSWMA has engaged in ongoing conversations over the last several years with local stakeholders (ex: neighbors, host municipality, public officials, etc.), answering questions and addressing concerns with regard to the project.
In 2014-2015, LCSWMA negotiated an amendment to the host fee agreement with Manor Township, which includes a 2% annual escalation, providing an additional $4.8 million for the host municipality over the next 20 years. Manor Township has agreed to the vertical expansion of 50 feet for the Frey Farm Landfill. Additionally, LCSWMA negotiated with a local citizens group, PALE, which includes: an 1) increase to the host fee (as previously stated), 2) twice annual free waste collection for residents near the Frey Farm Landfill and to 3) perform a tree buffer study that considers the practicality of screening the vertical expansion. PALE has agreed to the vertical expansion of 50 feet for the Frey Farm Landfill. Finally, LCSWMA attended to the concern of a few neighbors regarding the increase to tonnage limits by making an offer to PALE for the restriction of commercial waste delivered to the Frey Farm Landfill from out-of-county sources.
LCSWMA continues to engage, listen and work with those interested in the vertical expansion project; while also recognizing the criticality of fulfilling its mandate to serve the greater public need of current and future waste disposal services for a growing, vibrant community.