After getting into the landfarming business five years ago, the county is looking to expand its acreage in an effort to eliminate most of the sludge that goes into the West Daviess County Landfill.

David Smith, the county’s director of legislative services, said having an agricultural component has provided the county with a way to minimize how much sludge goes into the landfill. With landfarming, the sludge is dried and then spread as fertilizer across the ground, creating nutrient-rich topsoil for row crops.

Prior to landfarming, about 25 tons per year of sludge, a by-product of the treated sewage from the Regional Water Resource Agency, went into the landfill.

Smith said the sludge not only takes up space within the landfill but it also creates a liquid leachate when combined with garbage.

Although that leachate is supposed to trickle into pipes that run into capturing tanks, the landfill has battled liquid leachate getting trapped in the methane wells, preventing a high enough level of gas production to sell as energy.

“The main reason we did this is to redirect some of the sludge from going into the landfill,” Smith said. “We use some sludge to make compost but we were still putting a lot of sludge into our landfill, and it was causing water issues in our (methane) gas well system.”

In 2015, Daviess Fiscal Court invested $960,000 in nearly 188 acres on Hobbs Road to begin landfarming. The land is adjacent to the landfill on Kentucky 815.

Smith said the goal is to expand the landfarming operation with more ground, which could result in a negligible amount of sludge being placed in the landfill.

“We’re in the process of attempting to purchase more acreage,” Smith said. “I think if we purchase that acreage and put it into landfarming — I think it’s another 100 acres — it would start getting interesting into how much we would put in. …Certain times of the year sludge doesn’t dry very well so I think we’d be putting some in during the wintertime.”

In the meantime, the ground is being prepped for the third season of winter wheat.

And to aid in the upcoming October planting process, Fiscal Court approved on Sept. 3 the $23,600 purchase of a 15-foot disc harrow that will help mix in the sludge with the soil while also tilling and chopping up unwanted weeds and crop remnants.

“It’s getting kind of rutted out and hilly,” said Robbie Hocker, the landfill’s solid waste manager, about the landfarming ground. “So we’re just going to try to incorporate the sludge into the soil by discing it in.”

During planting and harvesting seasons, Hocker said the landfill has employees who have farming backgrounds.

“We have two guys out here who are farmers; they’ve worked in the mines and they all have farms at their houses,” Hocker said. “So that’s how we’ve been able to do this.”

Along with the wheat, Hocker said the plan is to add a second crop — sorghum-sudangrass — in the spring. The landfill has already been selling its wheat and bailed grass hay. It plans to do the same with the sorghum-sudangrass.

“It depends on manpower, weather and all of the above,” said Hocker about planting the sorghum-sudangrass. “…We wear many hats out here. We do a lot of different things.”

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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