Waste Management pumping, flushing Vickery Spring

Friday, July 31, 2009
Robert Garza stands by Vickery Spring at his backyard where Waste Management has been pumping water from behind a small dam that's catching spring water that's been found to have components of leachate, liquids that seep through landfills.

In the month since residents around Poteet Road asked who would be cleaning creek water downstream from Vickery Spring, Waste Management Inc. has installed a pump and pipes that carry the water to a city sewer.

"They came down and used my electricity and pumped the water," Robert Garza of Poteet Road said Wednesday morning of Waste Management, the company that runs Cedar Ridge Landfill just north of his home, the one with a backyard deck and swimming pool across Mooresville Pike from the landfill's driveway.

Waste Management has been paying Robert and Chelle Garza's power bill and mowing their lawn since the company accepted the task of clearing the creek water behind their home, Robert Garza said.

In June, the Garzas' neighbors complained to Lewisburg's Water and Wastewater Department about a smell like sewage and a bluish green color on and in the water downstream from Vickery Spring. The city utility reported the situation to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The resulting state investigation, along with one by the landfill company, revealed Vickery Spring water contains components of leachate.

Leachate is dirty water that's seeped through a landfill. Much of it is liquid that emerges from garbage buried daily at landfills. The liquids frequently carry elements of wastes deposited in a landfill.

Waste Management has reported it's found a broken leachate pipe and that's been seen as the likely culprit for pollution emanating from Vickery Spring. Landfill operations call for a leachate collection system and the suspected pipe has been "taken out of service," a company spokeswoman reported to the Poteet Road-area residents on July 17.

Employees of the landfill company "set up temporary piping to a manhole and pumped [Vickery Spring water] to flow to the Lewisburg Wastewater Treatment Plant," according to Robert Cheney, business development director for Waste Management.

"We have seen clearing of the stream," Cheney said, turning to a more technical explanation. "Conductivity levels have come down," he said.

Pure water does not conduct electricity as well as water with various other elements in the liquid. One of the field tests for water purity is a check on the water's ability to conduct electricity, hence conductivity.

Meanwhile, Cheney said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) authorized the "spring capture program."

It includes a small dam at Vickery Spring that creates a pool of water from which Waste Management's pump draws spring water to be drained into a manhole and sent to the city's treatment plant.

"I guess that's doing some good," Chelle Garza said Wednesday morning.

Robert Garza said, "It doesn't smell as bad. I can smell it a little when it's humid like this."

He anticipates the pump will be drawing water from the spring's dam for about two months. Garza based that on what he was told by employees sent to his property by Waste Management. Garza said he's satisfied the company has done what it could under the circumstances.

"In addition to this temporary, spring-capture project, Cedar Ridge Landfill has installed a data logger to obtain continuous readings of water quality at Vickery Spring," landfill spokeswoman Terri Douglas said. "Recent readings from this device show that conductivity continues to drop and is approaching the historic ranges for Vickery Spring."

On July 13, the company's measurements of conductivity revealed a level that is one fifth of what it had been in June, according to Douglas' report to residents impacted by the pollution.

"We anticipate that water quality will return to prior conditions within the next few weeks," Douglas said. "However, if it does not, we will re-evaluate the situation with TDEC and will keep you informed...

"During this time," she concluded, "Cedar Ridge Landfill is still advising neighbors not to enter the Vickery Branch of East Fork Globe Creek, south of the Landfill, until otherwise advised by TDEC or us."