Leachate aerosolization, also known as “garbage juice in a snowblower” was not effective during a test program at a Republic Services landfill, Drew Isenhour, area president of Republic Services in North Carolina, confirmed to NCPW today. He said that the trial had been conducted “a while ago,” adding that “we have no plans for its future use or application.”
The controversial technology, which would become legal for wider use under House Bill 576, pumps leachate from landfills and sprays it into the air. The theory is the heavier, contaminated particles will fall within the landfill footprint and the benign particles will drift away. However, there are no independent, peer-reviewed studies that support its safety.
Landfill companies are interested in cheaper alternatives to collecting the leachate in tanks and trucking it offsite.
House Bill 576 was sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Republican from Duplin County. It required DEQ to approve the technology. Sen. Trudy Wade, a Guilford County Republican, strongly supported the bill. Last year, she received a $5,000 campaign contribution from the inventor of the system, Kelly Houston of Cornelius.
Although both chambers passed the bill, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it on June 30. The measure is scheduled for a floor debate in the House on Thursday.
The NC Department of Environmental Quality had approved permits for a 90-day pilot program at three Republic-owned landfills and the Brickhaven mine. Duke Energy is disposing of coal ash at Brickhaven, near Moncure in Chatham County, where the materials are stored until it can be used in the manufacture of concrete. Charah, Inc. is managing the operation.
Cassie Gavin, director of government affairs at the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club said the failure of Republic’s test program should negate the legislation. “There is no need to require DEQ to permit a technology that a key industry isn’t interested in using,” There’s no need for the bill.”
Charah has also proposed a field trial of an evaporation method, which is similar to aerosolization. However, DEQ has not yet approved a permit for that trial.
DEQ could not be reached immediately for comment.
On behalf of Republic, Isenhour gave a presentation to the legislature’s Environmental Review Commission about leachate aerosolization in February 2016. However, Isenhour told NCPW that the company did not advocate for HB 576.
Therese Vick, coal ash coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, questioned who is behind House Bill 576: “Republic Industries, the owner of many NC commercial landfills, says the technology doesn’t work. What is behind the legislative and agency push on this unproven technology?”