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Trash talk: Where does it all go?
Our fast food containers, used tires and baby diapers dont just magically go away
A dump truck dumps trash on the pile at the Candler Road landfill in Gainesville. - photo by Tom Reed

Where do you think your trash goes when it gets picked up at home or dropped off at a compactor site?

It all ends up in the landfill.

But today's landfills are a far cry from the mountain of trash that may come to mind when you think of the dump. Today, there is only a whiff of garbage smell in the air and each day's trash is covered by a 6-inch layer of dirt and green grass.

"It's really scientific now, the way this thing is done; it's not just a hole in the ground," said Cary Lawler, the Solid Waste Manager since January for the Hall County Public Works Department. "We have approximately 255 acres, which only 94 is permitted to put garbage on."

Lawler said the space available and the space surrounding way Hall County's Candler Road landfill determines how it's used.

"There are two factors when you deal with a landfill: the impact to the environment and how much space," he said.

Private customers can dump their trash at the transfer station on the property, but bigger commercial vehicles will head to the top of the landfill to dump.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, modern landfills are designed and monitored to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Solid waste landfills must be designed to protect the environment from contaminants that may be present in the runoff from the landfill.

"We have scheduled inspections that we must do that are mandated by the state and the EPD," Lawler said. "There is a schedule of testing for methane, for ground water."

Methane and ground water tests are done twice a year, he said. The tests monitor the safety of the landfill in relation to the community. According to the Hall County Pubic Works department, the site has 29 groundwater monitoring wells, 11 surface water monitoring points and 26 methane monitoring wells.

The Candler Road landfill opened in July 1997 and replaced the Allen Creek Landfill, which had run its lifespan.

"The last report in '07 said we have 36 to 37 years (left for Candler Road Landfill)," Lawler said. "That is all contingent upon several factors and how we operate this."

Many municipalities use the Candler Road landfill, with Hall County Public Works one of the largest users. There are 13 compactor sites throughout the county that are emptied into the landfill, along with commercial garbage services and the city of Gainesville.

Combined, the total amount of trash emptied into Hall County's landfill ends up being about 250 to 270 tons per day, Lawler said. By comparison, a Boeing 747 jet weighs about 250 tons.

The state requires that 25 percent of solid waste is recovered, and that is where the Hall County Recycling Center comes in. But Lawler said recycling hasn't really affected the amount of trash entering the landfill.

"It's not mandated in the state of Georgia, so it's not what it could be," he said.

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