Third landfill may be delayed as second one fills up

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 9:57 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Peoria’s second landfill is filling up, but there’s a snag in getting its replacement ready in time.

The Solid Waste Disposal Committee governs landfills in Peoria. They’ve known for a while the second landfill would run out of space. Known as Landfill 2, it was opened in 1998 on the same day its predecessor Landfill 1 was retired. It’s expected to close between December 2024 and the beginning of 2025.

The committee secured a site for Landfill 3 nearby the others in the 2010′s and got a permit from the state Environmental Protection Agency to move ahead with construction.

Recently, the Department of Natural Resources informed them there’s a mine underneath that land, which could compromise the project.

“The [survey] shows approximately one acre of an underground coal mine, the records from that coal mine indicate they mined five acres of coal,” GFL’s Director of Area Landfills Tim Curry said.

The mine was used from 1938 to 1944. Part of the problem is it’s not clear how large the mine is, or how far it sprawls out.

Curry said the IEPA indicated they would not have granted the permit if they knew about the mines below.

There’s not a clear reason why the mines went unnoticed, except that IDNR does not do geographical surveys to approve permits and did not know what that land would be used for.

“Landfill 3, as is with this information, cannot move forward in the EPA’s eyes,” Josh Gabehart said. He’s with Foth Infrastructure, LLC, an engineering firm used by the city for landfills.

GFL’s Curry said they couldn’t comment on the possible impact of the mines, because they don’t know the scale of the problem yet.

Committee Chairman Stephen Morris said compacting the tons of trash on top of the mines could cause a collapse. A liner is put down to prevent runoff from the garbage into the soil and groundwater. If a mine collapses, the weight could ripe the liner and then pollute the surrounding soil.

As a more immediate problem, the initial permit from the EPA may no longer be valid.

Curry and Gabehart said they haven’t heard from the state if they are able to go through with construction or have to stop and deal with the mines first.

“There’s not enough time to do an investigation to determine where everything’s at and still have a place to take garbage when Landfill 2 closes,” Gabehart said.

The timing is variable, a landfill’s lifespan depends on how quickly it fills up. Things like recycling could buy some time for the local landfills, but it’s not clear how much.

Morris said Peoria residents don’t need to worry about piles of trash in the streets.

Garbage will still be picked up and taken out of the city. If Landfill 2 closes before Landfill 3 is ready, they may have to dump garbage at a different landfill, which means the city misses out on the revenue they get from housing trash in the county.