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City hopes to reduce landfill gas smell by May

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
April 14, 2010
— A city public works official said he hopes much of the landfill odor problem can be solved by the end of May.

The city council Monday agreed to borrow $240,000 to fix the landfill gas smell that has hovered on and off over large parts of Janesville since late 2009.


The smell is likely escaping from the perimeter of the landfill, which has a large and open design. Some of the money would be used to buy plastic membrane and clay to cover those areas.


The city also added five gas collection wells in December and January. John Whitcomb, operations director in the city Department of Public Works, said he believes the wells will operate better as the perimeter is sealed, creating more of a vacuum.


“We’re continuing to move forward with the implementation of some of these things we’ve identified,” Whitcomb said.


The city hired a consultant and also worked with state Department of Natural Resources staff to create a plan to capture the smell.


“Getting our hands on this and coming up with solutions has been a little bit more problematic than expected,” Whitcomb said. “It’s kind of like chasing a ghost.”


Some of the steps taken already have diminished some of the smell, he said.


“Several infrastructure improvements and other activities have been undertaken the past three months in an effort to minimize off-site migration and, while there has been some improvement, the problem persists at an unacceptable level from both a public and regulatory standpoint,” Whitcomb wrote in a memo to council members.


“There just needs to be more done,” Whitcomb said Tuesday. “It’s still affecting broader areas of the community.


“We’re moving as quickly as we can.”


Whitcomb expects incremental improvements as the city covers the perimeter. When done, staff will step back and see what more, if anything, needs to be done, Whitcomb said.


Whitcomb stressed that the city always will have odor concerns because the landfill is near residential neighborhoods.


“But we do have a historical level of acceptance, and this goes beyond that,” Whitcomb said.


Other business

The Janesville City Council on Monday:


-- Approved a $227,500 forgivable loan with W.W. Grainger if the company creates 130 new jobs over the next three years. The company, now GHC Specialty Brands, was formerly Lab Safety Supply.


-- Approved the $47,500 purchase of a foreclosed home at 416 S. Jackson St. for resale and the $5,000 purchase of one at 907 McKinley St. for demolition.



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