Helping college overcome community opposition to landfill reclamation project

Loyola University Baltimore, MD

Project highlights

Client challenge:
Loyola University Maryland acquired an off-campus property as the site for its new athletic fields and stadium. The price for the property was right – primarily because its 52 acres contained three former municipal solid waste landfills. Having faced years of community opposition to the development, the university needed a partner with the capabilities to perform the demanding geotechnical and environmental engineering, but also one sensitive to the community issues. 

Our approach: 
Haley & Aldrich provided comprehensive geotechnical engineering, hydrogeological evaluations, and human health and environmental risk assessment services for the university. However, because the land had become de facto greenspace, some in the surrounding community opposed what it perceived as an encroachment by the college, with some also questioning the environmental risk of the redevelopment. 

Haley & Aldrich played a key role in working with the community to dispel the fears and opposition, and assert Loyola’s commitment to the quality of life for the neighborhood. We worked closely with the Maryland Department of the Environment on all aspects of the closure and redevelopment, made presentations to the city of Baltimore agencies responsible for issuing building permits, and assisted in public meetings with the affected community. Ultimately, all stakeholders were satisfied, and the project was brought to completion.

Value delivered:

  • A modern athletic complex with three fields, built on terrain leveled using reinforced slopes, was designed to minimize future landfill settlement. 
  • An active gas collection system beneath the complex optimizes methane collection and dissipation. 
  • Importantly, the host neighborhood has adopted the redeveloped property with its ample undeveloped acreage and safe environment.

With community opposition to its project, Loyola finds the right partner to change hearts and minds

Former landfills and quarry reclaimed for use – but not without a fight

Loyola University Maryland is located in an established residential section of Baltimore, with little potential for growing their campus footprint through adjacent real estate. In order to expand their onsite academic facilities, they decided to free up campus real estate by relocating their athletic complex offsite, and in 1999 reached agreement to purchase a 52-acre parcel nearby that had been the site of three municipal solid waste landfills – one of them a former gravel quarry with municipal solid waste as deep as 215 feet.

The project posed significant engineering challenges given that much of the final facility would rest on land that had been created through uncontrolled filling, with the prospect of long-term settlement taking as much as a century to conclude. The landfill waste raised additional questions, both of its stability as a subsurface component, as well as its potential to pollute the neighborhood’s air, soil and water. This latter issue became flashpoint for vocal opposition to the project that would persist for years. Another prominent objection was the college’s encroachment into what had become de facto public green space.

Engineering a human solution

Haley & Aldrich provided geotechnical engineering, hydrogeological evaluations, and human health and environmental risk assessment services for the university. Sustainability was also an issue we brought to the table, as well as respect for the needs of all stakeholders – including project opponents. Working closely with the city of Baltimore and the Maryland Department of the Environment, the design team developed recommendations for the project that would meet all parties’ requirements.

After site research, a plan was designed to reduce the impacts of future landfill settlements on the site infrastructure. Deep dynamic compaction treatment of the existing municipal solid waste and landfill was proposed to reduce future settlements in sensitive areas.

To deal with concerns about the proposed re-grading of the closed landfills, a series of vegetated reinforced steep slopes was planned for five sensitive areas of the site. Designed with built-in geotechnical instrumentation utilized to record any settlement, the engineered slopes would be constructed up to 95 feet high using controlled fill to minimize settlement beneath the access roads and playing fields. Also, the vegetation on the slopes would support the natural greening of the facility as viewed from local neighborhoods.

Based on the results of the environmental risk assessment, recommendations included installation of a landfill gas control system, plus engineering controls to reduce potential noxious odors. The landfill gas control system included a geomembrane barrier over porous stone and geocomposite gas collection zones, with collection pipes and a blower system for venting and odor control that responded to concentration levels throughout the site.

One happy campus

Loyola’s new athletic complex went into service in March 2010. About 40 acres of its woodland are permanently committed to public use. The former landfills are now an asset to the university and the community.

For more information on this project, contact:

Derrick Shelton
David Schoenwolf