Orange County deploys gas sensors for stinky landfill

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Orange County is spending $117,000 to install sensors at its landfill on the east side, as a result of residents' complaints about the smell that is wafting miles away.  

Solid Waste Manager Jim Becker says the new sensors will test the levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air.  "Hydrogen sulfide -- that odor that smells like rotten eggs -- it comes from a number of areas."

That stench has been coming from the landfill for months. The money will cover five total sensors according to Becker.  "We'll have four of them that are posted north, east, west, and south on the property to show when that gas is leaving the property, and then we are going to put another one that is up Young Pine Road."

Currently, Becker said the amount of hydrogen sulfide is only being measured once a week, usually on Fridays at 1 and 5 in the morning.  "What we'll have now is a running level that will tell us 24/7 what the level of hydrogen sulfide gas is leaving the landfill, and that will tell us where we need to focus more of our attention on controlling those odors better."

The original source of the odor is the mixing of construction waste with household garbage, according to Becker -- specifically, when gypsum boards used in home building gets wet and mixes with regular trash. Long term, Becker says the smell will be gone.  "We are covering that and we are going to put in lateral wells to collect that gas as we move along."

Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson is happy to have the sensors, even though they can not stop the odor. She wants more action though.  "I'm satisfied that things are being done, I just wish it were happening a little bit quicker as somebody who is out there every day and smells the smell, depending on which way the wind is blowing."

Thompson hopes the County will have resolved the smell problems in the next 60 days.