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Tests showed landfill was seeping high levels of nitrates

Not all of Citrus' environmental problems come from the old, unlined part of the landfill.

Tests last year showed the landfill's leachate treatment plant was discharging up to 25 times the permitted levels of nitrates, which at high concentrations can cause health problems in infants. The plant's discharge seeps immediately into the ground.

Leachate is rainwater that picks up contaminants before seeping out the bottoms of the old and new landfills at about 30,000 gallons a day.

Repairs to the treatment plant were successfully completed recently, said Susan Metcalfe, the county's director of solid waste. The plant is now discharging nitrates at less than one-hundredth the level allowed by the state.

Because the problems stemmed from an inadequate design, the county negotiated a settlement to split the repair bill with the plant's manufacturer, Zimpro, and the engineering firm that designed it, Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan.

However, the state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered three months of tests on the plant before it will allow the plant to go back into operation. In the meantime, the treated leachate will continue to be trucked to the Brentwood sewage plant for additional treatment as a precaution.

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