Project: Reshaping public attitudes and municipal government approaches to solid waste management in Blagoevgrad
C a s e S t u d y
Reshaping public attitudes and municipal government approaches to solid waste management in Blagoevgrad
Redesigning the current landfill and making revisions to the current operational plan was a primary goal of Blagoevgrad's strategic plan for sustainable solid waste management. In col laboration with our Auburn partners, we developed the plan during Phase II of the Bul garian Technical Twinning Program.
The Environmental Work Group identified several priority tasks for the municipality's solid waste management plan. This Work Group consists of experts from the city of Auburn and the municipality of Blagoevgrad, students and lecturers from the South-West and American Universities in Bulgaria, municipal councilors and citizens, NGO representatives, and representatives from the Regional Agency on Environmental Protection and the Regional Hygiene and Epidemiological Agency. The identified tasks were:
n Develop a plan to (a) improve the Blagoevgrad landfill's environmental standards, (b) extend the life of the landfill, and (c) reduce the landfill's negative environmental impact on the Struma River.
n Identify a new site for a future landfill.
n Identify ways to improve solid waste collection in the municipality.
Related to these tasks, Mr. Alfred Davis, Director of Environmental Services of the City of Auburn, assisted the Work Group in preparing a technical report on the Blagoevgrad landfill. The report included specific recommendations to improve the design, maintenance, operation, and safety of the landfill. The municipality has implemented many of the recommended measures, and is now implementing several others. These measures will extend the life of the current landfill by at least 10-15 years.
Blagoevgrad's existing landfill is located near the village of Buchino, which is adjacent to the municipality of Blagoevgrad. The landfill has been in use since 1977 and has the same difficulties as other Bulgarian landfills in meeting standards required by law. Since 1995 we have focused on the following areas in an effort to meet the legal standards:
n Authorization of a committee to choose potential sites for a new landfill.
n Implementation of separate collections of different types of waste.
n Purchase of new containers for solid waste.
n Purchase of new modern equipment for waste collection.
n Installation of a groundwater collection system to prevent groundwater runoff from the landfill from polluting the River Struma.
n Covering of all exposed trash at the landfill with soil.
The main obstacles we encountered were limited resources of the municipal budget for solid waste and environmental initiatives, citizens' lack of understanding and passive attitudes, and the lack of a long-term strategy for solid waste management. Therefore, we turned to the technical expertise and organizational experience of our partners in Auburn. The city of Auburn has had remarkable success in the management of environmental activities, particularly in waste collection, transportation, and disposal.
The project began in 2000 following analysis of the Environmental Work Group's technical report. We decided that the proposed new landfill sites were not suitable for the following reasons:
n Road access would be difficult, particularly during the winter season.
n The longer distance from the city would significantly increase the cost of waste transpor tation, therefore doubling the waste collection fee.
n The road had a steep slope, which would impede the traffic of the waste collection equipment.
n It would be expensive to build the necessary new road to the sites.
n Both sites are located high above sea level, increasing the possibility for road blockage during the winter.
n Hydrological and geological data on the sites are incomplete.
n Development of the new sites would take at least 10-15 years.
In the face of these obstacles, we decided to concentrate our efforts on the implementation of measures to extend the life and use of the current landfill until a new landfill can be built. An alternative site for a new regional landfill near Kocherinovo has been approved, but con struc tion will not be complete for 10-15 years. The measures we took were as follows:
n Introduce separate collection for ash and bio-waste.
n Fence the entire area of the landfill.
n Cover the entire site with 60 square meters of low permeable soil.
n Make the slope less steep by filling it.
n Stop the dumping of trash near the water channel.
n Remove trash from areas in and around the water channel.
n Designate an area for burying dead animals.
n Designate a site for collection of ash.
n Prohibit the burning of waste.
n Install grates at the culvert.
n Use a bulldozer to compact and cover the trash.
n Build a barrier to control landfill access at the entrance.
n Construct an all-weather access road to the dumping area.
n Develop a plan to control litter within the landfill.
n Construct a sedimentation pond at the base of the landfill.
n Prohibit scavenging.
n Establish a payment system for private vehicles that bring a load of trash for dumping.
n Fill the area near the channel with low permeable soil.
n Use an appropriate liner or multiple liners to minimize the impact of leachate on the Struma River.
n Install leachate pipes with collection area.
n Fill the swamp with low permeable soil.
n Construct a site for compost.
Most of the measures listed above were implemented during 2001. Some are planned for 2002, depending mostly on the procurement of the necessary funds from the municipal budget. The municipal management believes that 2005 at the latest will implement the remaining measures.
Solutions Overview and Specific Results
During the technical visit of Auburn's experts in August 2001, the Environment Work Group conducted a review of the measures implemented at the landfill. They reported the following:
n Signed a contract and carried out an experiment under the Ecolinks Program for separate collection and testing of bio-waste.
n Introduced separate collection of ash from household waste.
n Covered places identified as the most critical with soil; the whole landfill is covered with 60 square meters of low permeable soil.
n Stopped dumping of trash near the water channel.
n Cleared away the trash near the water channel.
n Started using a bulldozer to compact and cover the waste.
n Posted a guard at the landfill entrance to prevent illegal access.
n Built an all-weather access road to the dumping area.
n Fenced the entire landfill.
n Installed a barrier at the landfill entrance with an information board listing the types of waste permitted for dumping.
n Covered the swamp areas with low permeable soil.
n Bought new waste containers.
n Bought three waste collection vehicles equipped for waste compaction.
Measures in Progress:
n Filling along the slope close to the river to minimize slope failure.
n Use of a separate site for compost.
n Designation of a vault for dead animals, which is planned to begin operation in 2002.
n Prohibition of the burning of waste.
n Prohibition of scavenging.
n Installation of the grates to prevent trash from entering the water channel.
n Partial control over littering inside the landfill.
n Update of the landfill operation and closure plan.
n Design of a project for enlargement of the landfill to comply with legal standards.
n Planting of trees on the slope at the landfill entrance.
n Collection of surface effluents through a collector and diversion to a special drainage basin for further purification.
n Installation of liners to prevent leakage.
n Installation of gas monitoring and groundwater-monitoring points.
n Establishing of a payment system for private vehicles according to Bulgarian law.
The measures undertaken will prolong the operation of the current landfill until a new regional landfill is built. The design of the new landfill is already underway.
A main benefit of this project and our collaboration with Auburn has been the wide involve ment of our citizens and institutions. Experts from the municipality, staff of the municipal company "Biostry," and students from the Ecological Youth Club "Terra" and the American University in Bulgaria have been significantly involved in the solid waste management project. Citizens have formed new understandings and attitudes toward environmental protection and separate waste collection.
Other benefits of the project are:
n The term for the operation of the landfill has been extended until a new regional landfill can be built.
n The risk of polluting the Struma River and the surrounding lands has diminished.
n The project saved funds from the municipal budget that could be used for the con struc tion of the new landfill.
n The organization of waste collection, and the maintenance and operation of the landfill, have improved.
n The risk of fires and the spread of contamination have been eliminated, and air quality has improved.
The project for redesigning and reorganizing the landfill's operation has been very success ful. It has enabled us to get acquainted with the rich experience of our partners, and to learn from the efficient functioning of the solid waste management system in Auburn. We were able to apply best practices from their complex program that were suitable for our specific conditions, and we have achieved tangible results addressing this crucial municipal govern ment problem.
The use of illegal practices not meeting Bulgarian landfill regulations and the lack of finances for building new landfills are common problems for most Bulgarian munici palities. This project could serve as a model for how the acquisition of new management practices and new ways of thinking among citizens can solve basic environmental problems, even with limited resources.