A Trip to the Landfill

The boys and I took a trip to the Magnolia Landfill this morning with the Baldwin County Master Environmental Educators or MEEs. I’m an MEE volunteer for the county. The lessons we teach include the landfill, trash, recycling, water cycle stuff and so this morning we had a goal of learning as much as we could about how the landfills are made, how long they take to make (from the beginning dig to topping off the hill) and all that goes into it…literally. 

After a “class” with white-board visuals on how the landfill is made and an aerial view of the property, we all piled into a van and took a riding tour of the landfill. We saw were landfill gas is burned off and where the experimental station for turning landfill gas into wattage for energy. We watched a delivery of household garbage being unloaded onto a hill and the spike-wheeled tractor/compactor push the garbage around. After moving the trash, the vehicle then rides back and forth over the trash to compact it.

spiked-wheel tractor/compactor

We visited the site of yard waste that will eventually be turned into compost material, and we saw piles of large household items such as bikes, basketball hoops, refrigerators, metal bed frames and more.

birds attracted to the garbage

Further down the road we went to another location for only building materials. An entire mound, covered by dirt and grass, was dedicated to debris from Hurricane Ivan.

At any landfill, rain water will eventually go into all of the cracks and crevices between the trash and leaching out potential toxins.  To keep this from going in the water table, each section of the landfill is lined with several layers of fabric and plastic.  A drain sits at the lowest spot to collect water that eventually makes its way downward.  The drain forces the water into a water treatment facility on site.  That was the next location of our trip.  There were several pools of water, each themselves lined so the “leachate” (the contaminated water product) won’t leak out into  containment pools.  In these pools the water is treated and contaminants removed. 

a water treatment pool and the birds it attracts

It was a truly interesting trip.  The boys actually enjoyed it.  We had a perfectly beautiful day for such a trip: cool, dry air and a blue sky.  This landfill is number 19 on the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail.  There is a platformed observation deck for birders to the area.   Everywhere we’ve lived, the landfill has been one of the first places people tell me is a great local spot for birding.  With so much to see and learn about, a field trip to your local landfill is a great idea.