Well work could lessen dump odors many smell

NASHUA – Paula Martin doesn’t live within a stone’s throw of the Four Hills Landfill.

As a matter of fact, the Harris Road resident lives miles from the city’s trash dump. Still, at times, the stench from the dump is so powerful, Martin feels almost as if the dump lies adjacent to her property.

The odor has been particularly bad late at night, beginning about last February, Martin said. The smell from the landfill, which is off West Hollis Street, would start about 8 p.m. and intensify.

“By 11 p.m., it’s just hideous,” Martin said. “If you drive (the F.E. Everett Turnpike) from Exit 6 to Exit 4, you’ll smell it the whole way on the highway.”

Martin said that often this summer, she and her neighbors haven’t been able to open their windows because of the stench.

Hopefully, as of last weekend, the odor should have lessened.

“We are aware that there have been people upset about the odor, beginning last winter,” said Kerry Converse, an environmental technician with the city Solid Waste Department.

The reason: a “slight delay” in expanding a system of wells that collects gases at the dump, Converse said.

However, the system was completed last Saturday, he said.

The well system is installed and maintained by a national company called Fortistar Methane Group. According to the Web site of the White Plains, N.Y., company, Fortistar owns 12 percent of the gas-to-energy projects in the U.S.

As happens elsewhere, Fortistar has a contract with the city to capture landfill gases and burn the methane, to power an turbine that produces electricity. Part of the contract is that Fortistar expands the collection system as the landfill grows.

“As we fill the landfill, you expand the gas collection system at certain prescribed benchmarks,” Converse said. “It doesn’t take long for trash to start producing gas.”

Now that the system has caught up to the landfill’s growth, the odor problem should diminish, he said.

For her part, Martin is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“It sort of wasn’t as bad this weekend, but this morning, it was really bad,” she said Tuesday.

Martin said she would continue monitoring the odor over the next few weeks to see if there’s an improvement.

Meanwhile, with the $6 million phase II of the landfill now complete, no major work or expansion is on the horizon “for a long time,” Converse said.

Also, Converse said the plan to expand into the borders – a proposal rejected by the state Department of Environmental Services – is now a “dead issue.”

“The DES said no, and we said, ‘that’s it, we’re not going to pursue it,’ ” he said.