Guest Column: Landfill odor update

By Paul Gorski
Winnebago County Board member, District 5

For these many months I’ve been asking residents to report strong outdoor odors to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Many residents claim these odors smell like sulfur, garbage, or rotten eggs. Thanks to YOUR reports, the U.S. EPA, IEPA and the Winnebago County Health Department are reviewing the odor problem.

The IEPA recently released an odor fact sheet, and it follows this update. There is at least one error in the fact sheet, though; the fact sheet states the Winnebago Landfill is using compost and lime as top cover. A Winnebago Landfill representative claims the facility is not mixing compost with the lime, but rather using just lime in certain areas of the landfill.

The same Winnebago Landfill representative told me their facility is aggressively trying to solve the odor problem, and they believe they have significantly reduced the odors from their landfill. Winnebago Landfill is developing a website to provide updates on odor control efforts. I will send you that link when I receive it.

I still smell strong odors three to four days a week, how about you?

My own research

Don’t give up hope. My own research, aided by a local environmental scientist following the situation, indicates this problem can be dealt with. But we need to ensure both landfills are: 1) taking the necessary steps to solve the problem and, 2) implementing a testing regime that measures the success of the mitigation programs.

Continue reporting

I’m asking residents to continue reporting the strong odors to the IEPA by calling (815) 987-7760 or use the IEPA online complaint form:

When you make your report, please note the date and time of the odor and how it affected you. These reports are critical to determining if the odor control solutions are working.

If you want to “vent” some more, and apply more pressure to all involved, file a consumer complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office at:

Write your local newspapers

Please write the local newspapers!

The Rock River Times—Letters to the Editor e-mail:

Rockford Register Star—Letter to the Editor link:

Again, please keep reporting the odors!

Please write or call me with any questions or suggestions for my updates, thanks.

Paul Gorski

Winnebago County Board Member

District Five, 815-871-6320

IEPA Letter

State of Illinois

Pat Quinn, Governor

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Doug Scott, Director

Veolia ES Orchard Hills Landfill and Winnebago Landfill Odor Issues

Ogle and Winnebago Counties, Illinois

Fact Sheet #2                                August 3, 2010


Over the past year there have been multiple accounts of odor complaints from areas surrounding the Veolia ES Orchard Hills Landfill and the Winnebago Landfill. Given concerns for public health and the environment, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) inspected each of the landfills to determine if there was a problem with odors at the landfills in question. Sulfur-like odors were detected during some of these inspections at each landfill. Since that time, the Illinois EPA has been working with the Veolia ES Orchard Hills and Winnebago Landfills to evaluate landfill operations in an effort to ensure the health and safety of the community and the protection of the environment during operation of the facilities.

Compliance Issues

Feb. 4, 2010, the Illinois EPA sent Violation Notices to Veolia ES Orchard Hills Landfill, the Winnebago Landfill, and Winnebago Energy Center, the gas-to-energy plant located at Winnebago Landfill. Working in parallel, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) also issued Notices of Violation to all three companies. All three companies have provided information in response to these letters. The Illinois EPA and USEPA continue to work together on the issue with the common goal being to bring these sources into full compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and to mitigate the odor issues being experienced by the surrounding communities as soon as possible.

Winnebago Landfill:

To date, Winnebago Landfill has taken the following measures to reduce or eliminate odors:

→ Ceased accepting pulverized drywall, a likely source of sulfurous odors, and has implemented a management plan to monitor incoming waste streams, is using compost and lime as cover materials to neutralize hydrogen sulfide (H2S),

→  has placed low-permeability clay soils at the outside edge areas of the landfill unit to address the potential for less-efficient gas collection in these areas,

→ does not recirculate leachate,

→ prepared an “Odor Management Plan,” including an “Odor Monitoring Plan” under which they are utilizing a Scentometer for identification of odor levels at or beyond the landfill property lines,

→ installed additional gas collection wells in the closed southern portion of the landfill (South Unit) and has plans to install a horizontal collection system in the northern portion of the landfill that most recently began operation (North Expansion),

→ intends to relocate and reconfigure existing flares to facilitate better control of the landfill gas when it cannot be sent to the gas-to-energy plant at Winnebago Energy and,

→ is currently in the concluding stages of putting the final cover on a 15-acre parcel in the South Unit where they believe most of the sulfur-containing waste is located.

Veolia Orchard Hills

To date, Veolia ES Orchard Hills Landfill has taken the following measures to reduce or eliminate odors:

→ Ceased acceptance of pulverized drywall fines,

→ conducts daily on-site inspections to identify if portions of the landfill are odorous, as well as monitoring incoming refuse to identify particularly odorous waste,

→ implemented the use of odor neutralizers,

→ placed additional soil cover over areas suspected of generating odors, immediately buries and covers specific odorous waste streams,

→ suspended leachate recirculation in portions of the landfill where odors are detected,

→ increased the frequency of gas well field monitoring when landfills odors are detected beyond property boundaries,

→ created a plan for qualitative odor monitoring and continue to work with the Illinois EPA on a plan for quantitative H2S monitoring,

→ evaluated their landfill gas collection system, resulting in the installation of 13 additional vertical extraction wells and,

→ is installing three new blowers and an additional enclosed flare that, in conjunction with existing equipment, will provide total gas control better than that which is predicted to be necessary for the life of the landfill.

The Illinois EPA and USEPA will continue to oversee odor management plans and practices, as well as other activities developed and implemented by the landfill companies. As odor-causing materials (sulfur-containing wastes) have been placed in these landfills over the years, ongoing decomposition will continue to present possible odor problems. Moving forward, the goal is effective management of existing wastes and prevention of off-site odors.

An odor log form and instructions soon will be mailed out to those people on our contact list. This form will enable residents to record the exact date, time, and weather conditions when an odor is detected. Illinois EPA asks for your assistance in collecting this data. This information will be compiled and compared to the meteorological data in the area which will help in pinpointing where continuing odors are coming from and lead to action plans to address problem areas.

For more information, please contact: Jay A. Timm, Community Relations coordinator, Illinois EPA Office of Community Relations Community Relations coordinator (217) 557-4972 OR Maggie Carson, Communications manager, Illinois EPA, (217) 558-1536,

From the Aug. 18-24, 2010 issue

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