Lake Conestee Nature Park is planning to connect its 12-mile trail network to the nearby site of a former municipal landfill.  Dave Hargett, founder and executive director of the Conestee Foundation, the nonprofit that owns and manages the nature park, said work is well underway to establish a single trail connection between Lake Conestee and several service roads on the former landfill property.

The 100-acre landfill, located at 684 Mauldin Road, was closed by the city of Greenville in 1995 when the county opened its Enoree Landfill Subtitle D portion to handle municipal solid waste, according to Greenville Public Works Director Mike Murphy. That site was closed in 2007 when the county built its Twin Chimneys Landfill along Augusta Road.

Hargett said the connection between the former landfill site and Lake Conestee will ultimately lead to a series of one-way trails with observation points. “The initial pilot phase will include a little over a mile of their roads. So an out-and-back track from our trailhead at Conestee Park could be about 2.25 miles,” he said. “These initial opportunities reflect a phased plan but will be welcomed by our very active birding community and lots of folks who want to get their daily steps in away from pavement and surrounded by our green infrastructure.”

Hargett added that the connection is expected to open sometime this spring or summer, but its completion depends on approvals and trail-building activities. Lake Conestee also plans to install signage throughout the former landfill, marking which areas of the site are safe for visitors to access and which areas are unsafe, according to Hargett. “These rules must be strictly complied with, or we may not be able to sustain the program. This is not a playground,” he said. “Folks will have to stay on trail, not wander around. These trails will be accessible to hikers and walkers only, at least for the first pilot phase of the program.”

There are about 90,000 to 100,000 closed municipal landfills in the United States, according to a study published in the journal Ground Monitoring and Remediation. The sites are considered potential sources of contamination to surrounding groundwater and surface water. These contaminants consist of household and industrial compounds in wastes and consumer products, including pharmaceuticals, cleaning agents, fire retardants, perfumes, pesticides, and more. Although they generally occur in small concentrations in water, these contaminants may cause health problems for humans and wildlife if ingested.

Murphy said the city monitors for increased levels of contamination at the former landfill site along Mauldin Road at least twice a year via 10 groundwater monitoring stations. While the site’s contamination levels are currently in compliance with regulations set by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, one of its former dump areas is still emitting trace amounts of methane, according to Murphy.

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