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EPA ready to begin work on Chester County landfill fire

Crews started working in November to extinguish a fire at the Bennett Landfill in northwestern Chester County.
Crews started working in November to extinguish a fire at the Bennett Landfill in northwestern Chester County. Herald file

The Environmental Protection Agency says work is set to begin to extinguish the Bennett Landfill fire in Chester County, which has been burning for six months.

Contract crews began mobilizing this week to the site off Pinckney Road near the Broad River. EPA spokesman James Pinkney said set-up operations will begin early next week for what is expected to be a three-month operation to stop potentially dangerous chemicals from rising up in the smoke.

The fire has been burning since November, and air quality monitoring has shown hazardous substances inside the landfill are being released through the fumes into the surrounding area.

That monitoring has triggered a federal response that could wind up costing taxpayers more than $1 million to extinguish the blaze.

The primary objective of crews is to install “cover, compaction and encapsulation” that will smother an underground fire producing high levels of benzine and formaldehyde into the air. A fire break trench might be dug to isolate the burning area from unburned material.

As a secondary objective, EPA crews also will isolate exposed asbestos inside the dump that could pose a hazard to the surrounding area.

Residents of the nearby town of Lockhart have long expressed concern that the fire is exacerbating health problems in the community and poses a hazard for residents.

The EPA has promised to work with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and local officials to ensure the work is carried out in a “safe and effective” manner.

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062

Want to know more?

Information on the EPA’s operation to extinguish the Bennett Landfill fire in Chester County will be available to the public at Lockhart Town Hall, 118 Mill St., Lockhart; or by calling Kerisa Coleman, EPA community involvement coordinator, at 404-562-8831.

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