Learn about the science behind your landfill
Take a “tour” with a map, photos, and written explanations through ecomaine’s Landfill Guide(2.20 MB)
History and Facts
The ecomaine landfill/ashfill site is located between County Road and Running Hill Road on 274 contiguous acres within the municipalities of Westbrook, Scarborough, and South Portland. The property, purchased in 1974, opened as a landfill in 1978 and is accessed from Scott Drive. Seventy-five acres remain unused and are expected to continue accommodating our needs through 2038.
Solid waste is burned to produce electricity at our waste-to-energy plant in Portland, then, the ash generated from combustion is trucked just two miles to the landfill/ashfill, a waste site owned and operated by ecomaine and licensed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for special waste disposal. Because waste is burned, the volume of material is reduced by 90% – leaving only 10% to take up space at the landfill/ashfill property. ecomaine monitors ground and surface water three times per year and treated leachate is tested quarterly. Monitoring results show the facility does not have a significant environmental impact.
Conversion of municipal solid waste (MSW) into an inert ash, through the ecomaine waste-to-energy plant, eliminates the MSW decomposition process. If not processed through the WTE plant, that decomposition would generate acidic, heavy metal-bearing leachate that could contaminate ground and surface water. In ash form, however, the heavy metals are stabilized into compounds such as hydroxides and sulfates that remain in the ash and pose minimal risk of release into the environment.
ecomaine takes extra steps to safeguard the ecosystem at our landfill site: we install underground drainage systems (pipes, wicks, stone-lined out-flow beds); there are a series of five ponds which cleanse surface waters by using a more natural method that includes planted cattails to absorb iron; and there are more than 200 monitoring points throughout the landfill. In addition, we have a synthetically lined holding-pond.
In the course of a typical year, approximately 42,000 tons of ash are buried at the site.
The oldest sections (cells) of the ashfill have been temporarily capped with clay and/or plastic to prevent rainwater from permeating the ash and creating leachate, which could contaminate groundwater. Eventually, these cells (and all others) will be permenantly capped.
The effectiveness of care is carefully measured by staff and by independent specialists. Our efforts have been so successful that in 2007 the ecomaine Landfill/ashfill earned ISO (International Standards for Operation) 14001 certification for excellence in environmental management. To retain this certification, ecomaine has passed and continues to pass additional detailed examinations every six months.
In 2012, ecomaine also earned the OHSAS 18001 certification for health and safety excellence in the workplace. This was accomplished – and is renewed – using an almost identical system of rigorous examinations as in the ISO 14001 certification.
ecomaine continues to maintain both OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001 certifications.
In 2006, ecomaine completed the construction of a new seven-acre ash cell, the first since 1995. The new cell was built using state-of-the-art environmental design and cost $6.8 million to construct. In its construction, more than 100,000 cubic yards of dirt was moved, it was double-lined with synthetic material, embedded with both a drainage and monitoring system, and overlayed with a layer of frost-protection material. The first ash was delivered to that cell in July 2009.
As a result of this technology and careful maintenance, there are none of the odors or blowing litter associated with old-fashioned dumps. Instead, we are frequently visited by ducks, wild turkeys, fox, and deer. We are proud to say that our site is virtually undetectable and unknown to the population around us.
Download facility schematic (PDF 33KB)
For a tour of this, or any ecomaine facility, please contact Katrina Venhuizen, ecomaine’s Environmental Educator by phone at 207-523-3141 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Landfill Pase II: Design Report (73.5 MB)