May 19 Webinar Explores Impacts of Natural Gas Industry on Landfills

By Jeff Mulhollem and Chuck Gill, Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK – Landfills in the region affected by the Marcellus Shale natural-gas boom have seen sharply higher revenues and felt more than a few headaches, according to solid waste experts.

“The Marcellus play has been good for the landfill business,” said Jay Alexander, general manager of the Wayne Township Landfill and a member of the Clinton County Solid Waste Authority. “But there is no question that it has brought pros and cons.”

Alexander and Larry Shilling, regional vice president of Casella Waste Systems, will be featured speakers during a Web-based seminar on May 19, presented by Penn State Extension. Titled, “The Impacts of the Natural Gas Industry on Landfill Operations,” the webinar will start at 1 p.m.

Shilling noted that Casella, which operates 10 landfills — including three in New York located in the Marcellus play and the McKean County landfill in Pennsylvania — is trying to come to grips with the challenges associated with solid wastes generated by the Marcellus Shale gas industry.

“Our company has commissioned two studies regarding oil and gas waste as it relates to landfills,” he said. “The first was an evaluation of the radiological characteristics of Marcellus drill cuttings; the second was a modeling effort to predict radiological impacts to leachate from a landfill that accepts drill cuttings.”

Shilling added that his presentation in the webinar will focus on the results of those two studies. “Our important role in the development of the Marcellus Shale natural-gas resource is to ensure we understand and manage the associated waste in the most appropriate manner,” he said.

The gas industry has brought new waste streams into the market, such as plant trash, drill cuttings and liquid wastes, Alexander said. “That has provided us with additional income, allowing us to move up landfill expansion plans, including updating $5 million worth of new equipment. And we were able to fund it all out of cash flow.”

Alexander noted that his company also has been able to purchase surrounding properties that were targeted for long-term growth of its landfill. “That’s all spending that puts money into local pockets by creating additional jobs,” he said.

“We have seen an increased workload for local hauling contractors, with six to eight of them working daily with our landfill, hauling waste for the gas industry. And with the increase in materials, we have seen the income for our recycling operations rise.”

But, Alexander said, with the added business and profit come a few negatives, which he will address during the webinar.

“We have to deal with and control greatly increased truck traffic, the added materials have reduced landfill gas production, we have increased leachate generation and we have additional odor concerns,” he said.

The May19 webinar is part of a series of online workshops addressing opportunities and challenges related to the state’s Marcellus Shale gas boom. Information about how to register for the webinar is available on the webinar page of Penn State Extension’s natural-gas  online.

Future webinars will include speakers on the following topics: air quality issues related to unconventional gas plays; pipeline development and regulation; a research update on the effects of shale drilling on wildlife habitat; and current legal issues in shale-gas development.

Previous webinars, publications and information on topics such as water use and quality, zoning, gas-leasing considerations for landowners, and implications for local communities also are available  online.

For more information, contact John Turack, extension educator in Westmoreland County, at 724-837-1402 or jdt15@psu.edu.

About the Author

Leave a Reply