MOROCCO — The United States Environmental Protection Agency has extended the deadline for public comments and will be holding a public virtual (online) hearing regarding Republic Services’ two permit applications for underground injection wells at the Newton County Landfill.
Newton County Attorney Pat Ryan informed the Board of Commissioners of the update at its regular monthly meeting Nov. 16.
Ryan stated that after further negotiations and a pending Freedom of Information Act request, the EPA has now agreed to conduct a public hearing on this matter and has also agreed to extend the original deadline for public comment for at least another month.
The EPA has updated its public notice web page to address these latest changes (https://www.epa.gov/publicnotices/proposed-class-i-permits-111-1i-0001-and-111-1i-0002).
The website states, “Due to significant public interest in these Class I permits, EPA will hold a virtual (online) public hearing, with the date and details to be announced 30 days ahead of time. The public comment period, which was set to expire on Nov. 16, is extended to a date that will be three business days after the virtual public hearing is held.”
“Obviously the outpouring of concern by our county residents has garnered the EPA’s attention,” Newton County Board of Commissioners President Kyle Conrad stated in a press release. “While there is no local jurisdiction in this permitting process, we remain committed in doing all we can to slow this process down to allow for proper research and information gathering and, hopefully, an alternative solution to the leachate disposal issue.”
The Newton County Commissioners have retained environmental consultants to assist them with their efforts to protect the interests of the citizens of Newton County against any potential harm caused by the granting of Republic Services’ permit.
According to the EPA’s fact sheet on the proposed plan, the agency plans to approve the request from Republic Services.
The two permits authorize the disposal of “non-hazardous” liquid waste from landfill leachate, landfill gas condensate, well maintenance and testing fluids, and storm water runoff generated at the facility into an area underground.
According to the EPA Fact Sheet on Republic Services’ plan, the injection zone for the two wells is the Mount Simon Sandstone, which is located 3,200 to 5,000 feet below the surface.
In Newton County, the base of the deepest underground source of drinking water is 790 feet below the surface called the Silurian-Devonian Aquifer.
The EPA Fact Sheet on the plans states that “there are adequate confining layers between the injection zone and the deepest source of drinking water to prevent the movement of injected fluids into underground sources of drinking water.”
The EPA also says there are no other wells that penetrate that confining zone within a two-mile radius of each proposed injection well, and they have set a limit on injection pressure to prevent fracturing of the injection zone rock formation.
The maximum allowable injection pressure for each well was calculated by EPA by factoring the depth of the injection zone, the highest specific gravity of the injected fluid, and the fracture gradient of the rock formation. The calculated maximum permitted injection pressure is proposed to be 255 pounds per square inch.
“Review of the permit applications indicate no significant environmental impacts should result from issuing these two permits,” stated the EPA.