Dump work is pure garbageReclamation of the island's long-time landfill hit full stride this week.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:54 PM
"There's garbage.And then there's pure garbage.The nuances may seem subtle, but they become apparent in a huge, amorphous mound of waste culled from the Vincent Road landfill, filtered of dirt and rocks and distilled to its putrid essence.It's all the more reason to recycle, when you look at all we've left behind, said Michelle Miller, landfill specialist with Kitsap County Department of Public Works, surveying what might be called the worst of the waste.And it really doesn't go away.Not away, but soon to a safer, lined landfill near Bremerton.Reclamation of the island's long-time dump hit full stride this week, as crews with industrial screening equipment began the summer-long task of excavating and sifting through an estimated 123,000 cubic yards of long-buried refuse.A crew of 17 is on site; contractor is Everett-based Wilder Construction, under the management of BJC Group of Port Orchard.Visitors to the neighboring recycling center will have noticed considerable activity over the past month - some tree clearing, construction of makeshift roads, and the amassing of a huge pile of refuse - but not until now has the real work gotten under way.The process, applied for the first time in Washington under the authority of the state's Model Toxic Control Act and the Department of Ecology, looks like this:Garbage is excavated from a valley carved 40 feet below grade at the north end of the site, and is deposited in one of several dumptrucks. The material is hauled over to an asphalt pad across the site, where it is dropped a scoop at a time into one of two giant cylindrical filters.The waste spins around and around on its way to the other end; dirt, rocks and other pieces bottlecap-size or smaller fall through and are carried off by conveyor to piles of relatively clean, inert soil.The rest - and it is truly a mess - pours out the other end, to be scooped up and deposited in a growing waste pile destined for relocation to Bremerton's Olympic View.The mound so far includes construction debris; stumps; vehicle bumpers and rims, and other assorted scrap metal; shredded plastic bags; and a lot of things that, after three or four decades buried in the ground, aren't readily identifiable. Now and then, a tire - crushed, decayed and badly out of round - stumbles out of the machinery and meanders across the asphalt.All of it is surprisingly free of odor, in part because past dump operators reduced much of the organic material by burning, before that practice was outlawed in 1968.Indeed, viewed from the side, the excavation looks like a rough geological site, with strata upon strata of charred material laid bare.The most interesting item to be unearthed so far, BJC project manager Mike Robinson said, has been a glass float presumably from a Japanese fishing net.The sphere somehow survived the filtering process - even as it rode from excavator to dumptruck to backhoe, and then through the rough-and-tumble machinery.Then it smashed down on the asphalt, and it was fine, Robinson said. Amazing.The waste is being filtered at a rate of 200 cubic yards per hour.We've got some fine-tuning to do, Robinson said. Once we're up and going, it'll be up to 300.With an estimated 123,000 cubic yards of material to go through, weeks of work are ahead.Estimates are that after filtering, one-third of the raw landfill material will be trucked off site.The remaining clean material is being used to backfill the valley, with a two-foot soil cap and grass to be the finishing touch. Monitoring of nearby wells will continue into the future.It's fascinating, working on contaminated sites, Miller said.Past, futureReclamation represents the end of a decade-long process of study and work on the site, after a much-longer history of landfill use.Kitsap County acquired the 40-acre property in 1942, and it functioned as the island's dump under various private operators until 1975. During those years, it accepted domestic waste, petroleum products and slag from the Wyckoff creosote plant.It came to the attention of state officials in the early 1990s, when contamination was found in nearby wells. The dump was placed on the DOE's list of the most hazardous sites in Washington.Several corners of the site were cleaned up in 1992-93, with some 1,400 tons of material removed. After several more years of study, Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen and other local officials decided the best option was removal of the remaining waste, followed by capping with clean soil.Cost of the project is estimated to hit $6 million. Officials are counting on grant funding from the state DOE to cover up to 65 percent of costs, but Miller said this week those funds have yet to be secured; Department of Ecology officials were unavailable for comment.The city's share of the work is budgeted at $1 million, but that could go up if the grant funding doesn't come through.Either way, when the project is done this fall, the city will take ownership of the parcel, including the popular recycling pad operated by Bainbridge Disposal. All but the six acres directly over the landfill ravine will be useable, and several citizen groups have lined up with designs on the parcel for agricultural uses or affordable housing. Park district officials have discussed siting at least one ball field there.Too, the project could be a model for similar reclamation projects elsewhere.I think a lot of people want to see how this comes out, Miller said, whether it's on time, under budget, all those good things.What's really exciting it is that the county had the opportunity to put a cover over it and walk away, she said. But everyone wanted to do something more permanent. That's why we're digging it up and screening it.It's more expensive, but it's better stewardship. "