The Grass is Always Greener…in Ward Hill

A view of the Merrimack River from the apparently grassy hills near Covanta’s waste-to-energy plant. (Courtesy photograph.)

Workers rake out turf strands between seams. (Courtesy photograph.)

Workers rake out turf strands between seams. (Courtesy photograph.)

If you’re like Steven D. Sardella driving through Ward Hill, you may have been envious of the luscious green grass seemingly growing on the hill above the Merrimack River.

But, it isn’t grass, says Covanta Business Manager Mark Van Weelden. The operator of the Ward Hill waste-to-energy plant told WHAV the artificial grass is a first for the company and a first for the state.

“We’re very pleased with it,” he says. The company began considering the ClosureTurf product in 2013 after making visits to landfills in Pittsburgh, Penn., and Hartford, Conn. The manufacturer calls the artificial turf an EPA-compliant landfill closure solution, specifically designed to address and solve soil erosion.

Although more expensive than natural cover over the ash landfill, Van Weelden says, the benefits are no lawn mowing, better control of erosion maintenance and clean storm water run-off into perimeter basins.

Covanta approached the state Department of Environmental Protection in 2014, submitted an application in April, 2015, and won approval to use the product four months later. It was installed last spring.

Van Weelden joined Covanta three years ago, but has spent 20 years in solid waste business. He moved east from Chicago about seven years ago.

Covanta’s Ward Hill plant began commercial operation in 1989. It processes 1,650 tons per day of solid waste from Haverhill and other communities.

Sardella said he suspected the grass was artificial during last summer’s drought. “Everything went brown, but the landfill remained lush green,” he said.

3 thoughts on “The Grass is Always Greener…in Ward Hill

  1. So is all that ash contained so contaminants do not leach into the river ? The hill seems a lot bigger than we were told it would be. Is that true does anyone know ?