I-Team: Old landfill to cost taxpayers millions


"We did at one point operate a landfill out in this area," explained Wake County Environmental Services Director Tommy Esqueda.

That "lost" landfill opened in 1971 and closed in 1986. But since then, the county lost track of it.

"We did lose the institutional knowledge of individuals that were associated with this landfill," Esqueda explained.

The privately owned property leased by the county was monitored until the mid-90s. Everyone who worked on the project has since moved on.

It's turning out to be an expensive oversight. The landfill has gone unchecked for years. So, Wake County taxpayers will have to pay for testing and clean up to the tune of $4 million.

And - unlike today's landfills that are fitted with a special lining to prevent contamination - the old landfill has no lining, so taxpayers will have to fork out hundreds of thousands in the future for maintenance.

"We do have some concerns that rainfall has possibly gotten into the waste," said Esqueda.

Located in an industrial area, there's little residential impact from the Knightdale landfill. But what about elsewhere? Are there any other lost landfills?

Esqueda is confident he knows about all the ones that are the responsibility of Wake County to maintain.

"We've got a handle on those. There still may be others out there," he said.

State records show there are hundreds of old landfills and dumps statewide - 31 in Wake County alone. Three of them are lost somewhere in Raleigh, Rolesville and Morrisville. They're now the responsibility of the state - not the county.

Wake County officials say the landfill business operates more efficiently now. Most counties own landfill property instead of leasing it from a private owner. They're also built with a special features to prevent contamination.

Wake County commissioners have yet to approve the $4 million for cleanup costs at the Knightdale landfill.

More on the web:

Pre-Regulatory landfills

Guidelines for old landfill cleanup

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