Lowry Landfill, once home to an active hazardous waste landfill, is now the only landfill gas-to-energy facility in Colorado, and helps provide enough power to supply the needs of nearly 3,000 homes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with the City and County of Denver, Waste Management, Inc., and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, have changed what was once an environmental liability into a facility that gives back to the community. The former landfill is now the site of a landfill gas-to-energy facility providing electricity to the local energy company.
Lowry Landfill is an approximately 507-acre facility located 15 miles southeast of Denver. Between 1960 and 1980, it was a co-disposal facility that accepted both industrial and municipal waste, including tires. Between 1980 and 1990, Waste Management, Inc. operated the landfill as a municipal solid waste-only facility. The site was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1984 because the waste disposed in pits at the site contaminated soils, and eventually shallow groundwater. Similarly, gases from buried wastes contaminated air spaces in subsurface soil.
Site operations ceased in 1990, and since it’s listing in 1984, Lowry has undergone remedial activities. A 200-acre soil cover now covers the main landfill, and an 8,800-foot long underground groundwater barrier wall of soil and clay encloses the west, east, and south sides of the main landfill. Water from the north side of the site is collected for treatment. Additionally, a landfill gas collection system was installed in 1997 that collected and simply burned the gasses through a process called flaring.
In May 2007, an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) modified the landfill gas remedy. The modification changed the treatment process for landfill gas from flaring to fueling a landfill gas-to-energy facility. This facility collects landfill gases and burns them in generators to produce electricity. Landfill gasses are collected from both Lowry and the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site, an adjacent, active landfill. The size of the extraction well field expanded from 54 to 218 wells, and the collected gasses fuel four engines that generate 3.2 megawatts of electricity. That energy is streamed into the regional power grid to power residential homes, while simultaneously achieving removal efficiencies required by the EPA. The facility began operations in July 2008, and is built for expansion to provide greater benefits to the community if gas production levels allow.
Lowry Landfill is an example of how formerly contaminated lands can be productively reused. The Superfund Redevelopment Initiative (SRI) helps communities reclaim and reuse thousands of acres of formerly contaminated land. By providing helpful tools and information to appropriate site stakeholders, SRI supports returning the country’s most hazardous sites to productive use. In the case of Lowry, SRI is highlighting the site’s innovative reuse in a Return to Use success story. The fact sheet illustrates how administrative complexities involved in supporting a novel reuse were overcome through close stakeholder collaboration.
The gas-to-energy facility provides myriad benefits to the local community, as well as minimizing methane emissions that could contribute to climate change. Some of the benefits include: destroying hazardous substances in extracted landfill gas, offsetting the use of non-renewable resources for the generation of electricity, and reducing the emission of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter from the use of non-renewable resources. The Lowry Landfill gas-to-energy facility shows how former contaminated waste sites can be returned to safe and productive uses for communities.