A newspaper article about the Vietnam War was one of the time-capsule-like items discovered in a small, closed landfill within Red Deer city limits.
“It’s like a little bit of archaeology,” said Janet Whitesell, waste management superintendent for the City of Red Deer, who’s been studying eight local landfills determine whether they could potentially cause negative impacts on the environment and nearby properties.
Although all of the small garbage dumps were permitted, they were in operation near the Great West Adventure Park, McKenzie Trails, Lindsay Thurber high school, Red Deer College and a few other locations before 1972.
Since past garbage disposal standards don’t live up to today’s regulations, Whitesell believes voluntary soil testing around these closed sites is a “prudent” measure.
The first phase of testing, completed after several years in 2015, showed no need for containment or remedial action around the old landfills, but suggested more testing be done.
One surprise for Whitesell was discovering, after digging with auger-like equipment, that one spot thought to contain a garbage dump did not. The nine landfills initially in the study then became eight.
The city is now in the second phase of the project, with a focus on the former Montfort landfill, which had operated between Hermary Street, Hill Crescent and 52 Avenue in Highland Green. Since this site is closest to residences, Whitesell said groundwater monitoring wells and soil vapour probes were installed last month.
It’s been too cold for results to be obtained yet, but she expects to learn more about the composition of gases in the soil by April. Whitesell said no significant concerns were raised by nearby residents, although several volunteered to have indoor air monitoring done in their homes over the next year. They were generally aware of the former landfill in their neighbourhood.
A fringe benefit of the study would be dating the old landfills more precisely. So far, Whitesell has had no luck — there was no year on the newspaper article about Vietnam, no best-before stamp on a piece of milk carton retrieved from the same landfill. And when she attempted to date a plastic wrapper discarded from a purse-sized Kleenex package, she discovered the company had been making this product since the 1920s.