State orders plan to extinguish fire at Pasco landfill

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldMay 1, 2014 

Garbage Photo.jpg

A worker distributes dirt in December, 2013 to repair soil cracks at the Pasco Sanitary Landfill where an underground fire about 25 feet in diameter burned. The landfill is just east of city limits at Dietrich Road and Commercial Avenue.

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE

A fire continues to burn underground at the Pasco Sanitary Landfill, and Washington has ordered that a plan be developed in 15 days to promptly put it out.

It's been burning since November.

"We are in a position that we want to be very clear and direct that we want the responsible parties to give us a plan and extinguish the fire," said Brook Beeler, spokeswoman for the state Department of Ecology.

The landfill, northeast of Pasco near the intersection of Kahlotus Road and Highway 12, has long been closed and is a federal Superfund site.

The state maintains a list of 32 businesses and government agencies, including Franklin County, that are potentially liable for the landfill's cleanup. All received the order to develop a plan.

The state is concerned that the continued burning of the fire poses a potential threat to a part of the landfill where 35,000 drums of solvent and paint sludges, cleaners and other industrial waste are buried.

The fire, believed to be about 25 feet in diameter, is burning in an area where bales of household and other municipal waste and construction debris were buried before 1989.

In December, two feet of soil was piled on the ground above the burn, filling in cracks that allow oxygen to feed the blaze. In addition, the operation of a vapor extraction system to vacuum contaminated air at the adjacent industrial dumping area was modified to make sure gases are not sucked across the burning area to feed the fire.

However, temperature readings taken to monitor the underground fire have not declined, Beeler said. There is no indication that the fire has grown beyond the 25 feet in diameter initially measured, she said.

The fire was discovered when environmental cleanup workers at the landfill noticed the ground had sunk almost two feet in the area of the fire and wisps of smoke were seen coming from cracks in the soil.

Air monitoring is being done to detect carbon monoxide or other potentially harmful gases.

The coalition of responsible parties already has been working on a plan to take further action and extinguish the fire, Beeler said.

The parties also are required to install a fire monitoring network to ensure the fire is out and to develop a plan to minimize the potential for future underground fires.

The state has not issued deadlines for that work, but a schedule is expected to be included in the plan the coalition submits to the state.

The public can comment on the work the state is ordering by emailing chuck.gruenenfelder@ecy.wa.gov or mailing Chuck Gruenenfelder, Department of Ecology, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, WA 99205-1295.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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