Editor's note: This is the last in a series of guest columns submitted by the Hernando County Community Relations Department in observance of National County Government Week.
The Hernando County Utilities Department is responsible for the operation, maintenance, and management of all county-owned solid waste (landfill/recycling), water, wastewater (sewer) operations.
Residents in Hernando County generate approximately 245 tons per day of solid waste. Of that amount, approximately 30 percent is recycled; the remaining 171.5 tons is placed in the landfill. The landfill currently is using its second disposal area (Cell No. 2), which has approximately 13 to 14 months of capacity remaining before it will be filled to the maximum allowable. Cell No. 3 will then be placed into service. Once permitted and constructed, this cell should provide about 15 years of trash disposal.
A little more than a year ago, work was initiated on the design and permitting of Cell No. 3. One may wonder what is so difficult or magic about designing a landfill cell.
Modern sanitary landfills are designed to keep pollutants in the form of leachate from migrating out of the trash into the groundwater. This is accomplished by constructing a multilayered liner system. Other key elements of the landfill cell design is a leachate collection system, groundwater well-monitoring system and, in the case of Cell No. 3, a methane gas recovery system.
The methane gas produced by the decomposition of the organic material contained in the trash will be collected and used to fire generators, thus producing electricity that will be sold to the electric utility. This power-generating system will be owned and operated by a private company now under contract with Hernando County, and this company will pay the county a fee for the methane gas.
Another challenge for the department includes decisions about water conservation and water supply needs in land-use planning and the development of land-use regulations to protect Hernando County's water resources. The Utilities Department is participating in regional efforts to develop alternative water supplies and plans to expand and modify our sewer treatment facilities to provide increased amounts of reclaimed water for irrigation purposes.
The Utilities Department operates six separate water systems, including 35 community water treatment plants and 77 water wells serving nearly 59,294 residential and more than 1,959 commercial customer water connections. The design capacity of the 77 wells is 46.483-million gallons per day and the system contains more than 1,232 miles of water pipelines in the distribution system.
The Utilities Department recently received permit modification approval by the Southwest Florida Water Management District to pump an additional 3-million gallons daily, increasing the gallons pumped daily to a total of 24.39-million. While this modification will not lift water restrictions, the permit modification (which serves the west-central Hernando County service area) will ensure adequate water supply is available to meet demands through 2010.
To achieve these goals, the Utilities Department is pursuing services to include the management, administration and planning activities necessary to secure funding from numerous grant and low-interest loan programs, including and specific to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection State Revolving Fund Program.
For more about the Utilities Department and our services, please visit our Web site at www.hernandocounty.us/utils
Joseph L. Stapf is director of the Hernando County Utilities Department. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.