Warm Weather Sparks Hazardous Underground Fire At Licking County Landfill


UPDATED: Wednesday August 13, 2014 5:52 PM

Just beyond the rolling hills and picturesque fields, there's a problem smoldering underneath the ground in Hickman.

26 acres of debris is burning under the ground in rural Licking County.

The Fallsburg Landfill has been closed for two years, but warm spring weather caused underground fires to ignite at the site.  Now, it's creating health and environmental concerns for neighbors.

The landfill was built to hold construction and demolition debris.  However, the operator closed, and filed for bankruptcy in August of 2012.   Putting out the fire has now become the county's problem, with very expensive solutions.

"It just wasn't exactly like something dead, but awful," said neighbor Irma Romine.  She, and others who live nearby, worry about the odor and possible water contamination.  "I got used to it, but it just seemed like, I think it was worse!” Romine adds.

Cleaning up the site won't be easy, and will be expensive.  The entire project will cost nearly $2 million.  It will take an estimated 8,000 truckloads of dirt to cover all 26 acres of land, to finally extinguish the underground flames.

The Licking County Health Department says the Ohio EPA plans to place a cap on the land, covering a surface roughly two times the size of Ohio Stadium.

"The long-term plan is to contain that with a cap, so that we don't continue to see any runoff water or fires emerge," said Tabitha Haynes with the Licking County Health Department.

State Representative Jay Hottinger said the state Controlling Board released $1.3 million just this week to stop the fire and smoke from spreading to nearby properties.  The problem is so large, contractors can't remove it and can simply contain it.

However, health officials say it will be a permanent solution.

"I hope they do, but I don't know if it will stop all the smell," Romine says.

There is no timeline for work to begin.  Health officials say the fire doesn't pose an immediate threat, but rather a long-term risk to the environment - one they want to address before the risk become a reality.

Statement from Rep. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) on funding for local landfill

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