The state Department of Environmental Quality is fining Recology of Ashland $10,400 for discharging leachate (draining impure water) from the closed landfill it oversees on North Valley View Road.

The landfill is closed and capped but during the wettest month, January, rain and ground water can cause the system to discharge into tiny Jeffrey Creek, which drains to Bear Creek, says Gary Blake, general manager of Recology.

The system has a pond and storage tanks to capture sediment and metals picked up by rainwater that gets into the old landfill, says Blake, who adds that Recology will appeal the fine.

The main offender in the leachate is iron, which could come from metal objects in the old landfill or in iron storage tanks, says Jon Gasik, senior engineer with DEQ in Medford.

A DEQ statement says iron in small amounts is harmless, but “at higher levels (fish) cannot process all the iron they take in from water or their food. The iron can build up in animals' internal organs, eventually killing them. Higher levels of iron in fish and aquatic plants also has negative effects on the people or creatures consuming them.”

This is the second action from the DEQ on the problem. This fine is for January 2017. Recology was warned in January 2016, but didn’t get fined. Recology monitors its discharge, but DEQ flagged them for failing to submit a complete report on their leachate exceedance.

“They’re supposed to figure it out and fix it and they responded that they’re going to take corrective measures,” said Gasik.

Recology has responded by saying they will replace the metal tanks with plastic to eliminate them as suspects in the case. The “poly” tanks are on-site and will be installed in the next two weeks, according to Blake, who estimates the cost at about $5,000, most of which is the cost of the tanks.

“We know best practices and it’s not going to happen again. We're going to appeal and we have a long track record of being free from violations,” said Blake. The fine, he added, “from my point of view is a lot of money.”

The landfill closed 20 years ago. The system does not leach in drier months. The old landfill is above the present Valley View Transfer Station.

—John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.