Mat-Su officials monitoring methane gas levels at central landfill

PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Methane gas emissions are raising some concern for residents living near the Mat-Su Central Landfill, according to the Mat-Su Borough.

MSB has detected methane gas at levels above what state regulations allow. This was discovered during a routine sampling of landfill gas emissions on Jan. 23, according to MSB Director of Public Works Terry Dolan.

Dolan says the gas is coming from a part of the landfill, called "cell 2", which the Borough retired and sealed off a few years ago. MSB installed a ventilation line and cover over the area in compliance with environmental regulations.

When functioning properly the ventilation system allows methane to rise from the decomposing trash beneath and into the atmosphere in safe concentrations. Dolan says the vents over cell 2 have malfunctioned, causing the gas to “migrate” underground towards homes on the northern perimeter of the landfill.

Dolan says out of about 50 homes tested by independent contractors to monitor methane levels, only one was shown to have elevated levels. He says even those elevated levels were not high enough to pose a concern.

“But even if you have a small amount of gas in your home, what that tells you is you really should be ventilating so that it doesn’t have a chance to build up,” Dolan said.

MSB has attached a system to the vents on top of cell 2 which is pulling air out of the retired landfill and pumping it back into the atmosphere. According to Dolan, this process is not elevating atmospheric methane levels to a point that is harmful to human health.

MSB and DEC are monitoring the gas levels 24 hours a day, but Dolan says the timeline for when the gas will be fully vented is unknown.

“We’re going to keep these blowers going so that there isn’t any chance of it building up in the future,” Dolan said.

MSB recommends that residents living in the vicinity of the landfill monitor methane levels in their homes until the situation is resolved. For additional information call MSB at (907) 861-7601 or email mshapiro@matsugov.us.

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