It is common practice to create new buildings on top of (or nearby) old landfill sites. However, even long after the landfill ceases operation, one must still take into account potential environmental concerns associated with methane and other landfill gases in the area.
Here are just a few of the environmental concerns associated with landfill gases that make it extremely important to use methane detectors in San Jose, CA at former landfill sites:
- Inhalation risks: Inhaling landfill gases can pose a number of short- and long-term health risks. Methane and carbon dioxide are the two most abundant components of landfill gases, each of which are colorless, odorless and can displace oxygen, which means there is the potential for asphyxiation. Accumulation of lethal levels of these gases is especially a worry in enclosed, confined spaces, such as in underground utility structures, crawl spaces, trenches and basements in buildings located on or near landfill sites. Short-term effects of inhaling these gases include headaches and irritability, as well as potential eye and respiratory irritation. Long-term risks include cancer and respiratory diseases, among other conditions.
- Specific hazards related to landfill gases: Beyond the risk of inhaling these gases, there are plenty of other potential hazards that make them dangerous. The foremost of these hazards are fire and explosion. There is always a chance that methane could migrate through soil and collect in confined spaces. A single spark or ignition source could start a fire or cause a significant explosion. Methane becomes an explosion risk at concentrations between 5 and 15 percent by volume in the air. Again, because methane is both colorless and odorless, one would not be aware of the presence of this gas in the air unless a detector was present. This makes it extremely important, for safety reasons, to put such a detector in place.
- Ecological risks: It’s not just human lives that are in danger when there is an overabundance of methane in the air or soil. Landfill gases can severely stress or kill off plant life due to oxygen displacement in the soil near plant roots. This is particularly problematic for agricultural sites, as crop damage can occur in large quantities at farms located close to landfills. Additionally, some landfill gases can contribute to forming ozone, a gas that also stunts plant growth and contributes to damage to vegetation.
To prevent any of these concerns from becoming a problem, gas surveys should be conducted at all abandoned dumps and landfills to assess the risk of methane for nearby structures. This should be done before these structures are built. Monitoring should occur at least three or four times per year in different seasons to assess whether and how much these methane levels change based on moisture, ground temperature and frost.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of methane detection in San Jose, CA, reach out to the team at MDC Systems Inc. today. We have over 50 years of combined industry experience and look forward to sharing our knowledge with you.
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