Feb 15, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
SUNY-ESF professor Tim Volk presented on Shrub Willows as a potential covering for wastebeds 9 through 15 during the Onondaga Lake Citizen Participation combined meeting at Geddes Town Hall Tuesday Feb. 8.
But first, Kenneth Lynch, with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, gave an overview of the December settlement ordering Honeywell to close the wastebeds.
“The order does address closure of all those sites, not to be confused with one through eight that run along the lakeshore itself, those are being done under a separate agreement with Honeywell,” Lynch said.
Under the December order, Honeywell must cap the 600-plus acres of wastebeds in Camillus and Geddes. It allows for an alternative “green” willow capping to be used, and requires Honeywell to investigate offsite impacts in Nine Mile Creek and surrounding areas.
Lynch answered the question of how this order meshes with the construction of the Sediment Consolidation Area on wastebed 13 and with the existing operation of the Camillus C&D Landfill on waste bed 15.
“Ideally, the town of Camillus will proceed with completing their requirements in the closure of wastebed 15 … If for whatever reason that doesn’t happen, Honeywell’s required to close wastebed 15 under this order,” Lynch said.
He said the portion of wastebed 13 allotted for the SCA would be properly closed once the SCA is complete, though further coordination will be required to cap the rest of the wastebed.
The settlement ordered the closure process to begin by early 2011.
“You said early 2011, so that’s today, so what do you really mean by your timeframe?” asked Dereth Glance, chair of the Onondaga Lake Bottom Community Participation Working Group.
“The order calls for a memorandum of understanding between the DEC and Honeywell on how the [Environmental Benefit Projects] will be implemented, and that is just about done,” Lynch responded. He said the memorandum would lay out the public process for developing EBPs, and that public meetings would likely commence in early spring.
Volk followed by presenting ESF’s study of willow shrubs as a waste bed covering, which took place over the last six years and involved planting more than 16 acres of will shrubs on waste bed 13.
“There’s actually been an [alternative cap] program that the EPA has been running since the early 1990s … .there’s now quite a few [willow shrub caps], a couple hundred or so that have been done and implemented around the country, and so there’s more and more learning and lessons that have been gained from that work over the last number of years,” Volk said.
“The primary goal still is protection of human health and the environment,” he added, “but also thinking about a way to look at these systems and minimize the broader impact.”
Shrub willows soak up large amounts of ground surface water, have a long growing season, exhibit rapid growth and provide a large and deep leaf canopy, Volk said. The harvesting of them provides potential for green energy, and the shrubs adapt well to their surrounding environment.
The process would require bringing in nutrients to mix with the waste material. Part of the study involved finding the height for mixing, in order to hold water in the waste beds.
“It’s like a sponge, it sort of holds that dormant season water, then it’s pumped out during the growing season when the plants are active,” Volk said. The willow shrub cap is referred to as an evapotranspiration cover, as opposed to traditional, because it interacts with its environment- soaking up water and turning into oxygen through respiration. Volk said using willow shrubs, considering their many potential end uses when harvested, would be “carbon neutral or better.”
Clyde Ohl, a resident of Camillus and Observer columnist, asked if Honeywell would be required to harvest the willow shrubs. Volk said that harvesting would not be necessary to manage the water.
“The primary objectives is really to manage the water budget, that’s the concern, we don’t want water moving down out of the settling basins and into the surrounding environment,” Volk said. “The opportunity to harvest it off and used that material as a renewal energy source is a secondary benefit.”
Lynch explained that the order does not require any specific type of closure.
“The order also allows if Honeywell decided, well because there’s no business opportunity in capping with willows, I want to do it in a more traditional form, they can propose that,” Lynch said. “Or they can propose a smaller portion of willow closure so they can tailor the closure to whatever the business opportunity may be.”
Lynch said that the DEC could decide that one type of cap, in this case willow shrub, would not be appropriate to cover the entire 600 acres.
“We might want to see a different type of cap for part of that area so you establish more diversity up there from a habitat standpoint,” Lynch said.
Camillus Town Councilor David Philippone said he would like to see on site testing of a more traditional covering, and for the public to be presented with a side-by-side comparison of absorption rates for a traditional cap versus a willow shrub cap.
“Especially during the dormancy period [between January and April] … when they don’t have their leaves,” he said.
“It sounds to me like there’s going to be quite a bit of trucking involved to get the soil ready to sustain this plant,” he continued, “so have you compared the trucking involved for this solution versus [a traditional membrane cap] that would be there with, we presume, very good [percolation prevention]?”
Philippone showed concern that the recreational opportunities would seem “extremely limited” with a willow shrub cap.
“If you take down a path, well, it’s not preventing percolation,” he said.
Mary Jane Peachey, with the DEC, said comparisons of absorption rates had been done, just not locally.
“We’ve looked at it from a desktop evaluation,” she said.