Don't Be A Nuisance

A Rumpke official outlines how the firm prevents its landfills from being community irritants.

Every Landfill operator has sat through meetings with or fielded phone calls from neighbors, regulators or area political leaders who have complaints about a site's operations. Promptly addressing their complaints — which often involve noise, dust, truck traffic, wind-blown litter, birds or odors — is not just the right thing to do. It's mandatory for making your company a valued and trusted member of the community.

Cincinnati-based Rumpke Consolidated Cos., which owns or operates nine landfills throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, is familiar not just with the ways that landfills can be nuisances to surrounding areas, but also with how to prevent them from being so.

The 330-acre Rumpke Sanitary Landfill, located just north of Cincinnati, is permitted to receive up to 10,000 tons of waste each day. The seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day facility faces its fair share of nuisance issues, and since the facility is nestled in an area that is full of residential properties, minimizing the impact on the community is absolutely critical. Each day, an average of 850 trucks cross the scales at the landfill. These vehicles haul in odors and litter, while their wheels kick up dust.

First, a team of landfill workers uses a street flusher and a street cleaner to keep both the public roads leading into the site and the concrete surfaces within the facility free of dust and dirt. Along the entrance roadways, a sound-absorbing wall buffers nearby neighbors from operating noise.

Inside the landfill, two water trucks — one with 6,300 gallons of capacity and the other with 7,500 gallons — are used to eliminate dust on dirt roads and in construction areas. Before leaving the facility and returning to their routes, drivers can clean their vehicles using either an automated or a manual washing system.

Finally, on rainy days when the temperature is above freezing, all vehicles leaving the landfill are required to pass through a high-pressure wheel wash. The wash's powerful stream knocks chunks of mud and dirt from the wheels and underbodies of the trucks passing through.

Dust control also is one of the most challenging issues at the Hardin County Landfill in Elizabethtown, Ky. The facility, permitted to receive 1,400 tons per day, uses a 3,000-gallon water truck to control dust. Some products exist to control dust while reducing watering time, but at the Hardin landfill, water from a nearby creek is used to supply the water trucks. “It doesn't cost us per gallon, but it can be a problem during drought conditions,” says Brad Marlow, manager of the Elizabethtown landfill.

“Despite best efforts to control dust, road watering is almost a full-time job,” Marlow says. “Escalating fuel, repair and maintenance costs have made it a very expensive control technique.”

Feathered Headaches

When cooler temperatures arrive, it's time for the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill to tackle another nuisance: birds. Each winter, uninvited sea gulls, turkey buzzards, starlings, crows and other birds converge on the working face of the landfill only to be frightened off by six propane cannons, which emit a popping sound at random times.

Meanwhile, on-site employees are armed with hand-held bird deterrents that release a pyrotechnic designed to scare the birds out of the way. In other areas where birds tend to congregate and cause problems, Rumpke plays a sound recording which simulates predator birds attacking smaller birds.

To further control last winter's bird migration, Rumpke added large, parade-style balloons at each corner of the open landfill cell. The balloons are round in shape and come in various sizes.

“Some were as large as 6 feet in diameter,” says Tim Wolford, operations manager at Rumpke Sanitary Landfill. We staged them at various elevations on a daily basis.” The balloons cost about $100 to $300 depending on the size.

At Rumpke's landfill in Butler, Ky., birds are by far the nastiest nuisance issue. Controlling the population at this 103-acre, 1,100-tons-per-day site poses an even greater challenge because most of the visiting bird population is federally protected. With this in mind, the management team solicited help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wildlife Services.

Using a combination of trapping, hand capture and pyrotechnics, the Butler site has been able to keep complaints about birds to a minimum. “The efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working well,” says Bill Fairchild, a Rumpke site engineer. “Using the [department's] services has proven to be extremely cost effective.”

Ooh, That Smell

Everyone knows garbage smells, but for the sake of its neighbors and regulators, it is a landfill operator's job to minimize odors as much as possible. Rumpke Sanitary Landfill has three main odor culprits: the methane gas recovery process, its compost farm and the municipal solid waste it accepts.

Rumpke has contracted with Pittsburgh-based Montauk Energy Capital to manage the facility's methane gas recovery system. The landfill has three gas recovery plants on site and nearly 175 wells in place. Working with Montauk to ensure the plants are functioning appropriately and efficiently helps to minimize odors resulting from the recovery process.

Six compactors work to quickly compact garbage coming into the site to maximize capacity, eliminate any vectors and reduce odors. Also, along stretches of access roads at the landfill, an odor neutralizing spray is released to control the smells stemming from garbage, gas recovery and compost.

Annually, Rumpke uses approximately 550 gallons of the agent mixed with 950,000 gallons of water. The agent is released through a series of misters spanning 3.3 miles around necessary areas of the landfill. The system works well; however, it cannot be used when temperatures are below freezing.

Finally, to combat wind-blown litter, portable fences are placed strategically to catch items. During periods of high winds, Rumpke also uses a temporary litter crew. The team, consisting of seven or more members, not only picks up trash on Rumpke's property, but also extends their clean-up efforts to neighboring areas.

Communication is Key

To be a good neighbor, it is vital to educate nearby residents and businesses about nuisance-mitigation efforts and the challenges associated with them. Rumpke not only posts nuisance-control information about each facility on its Web site, but also distributes neighbor letters and newsletters, and hosts neighbor meetings to gather feedback.

Rather than just telling neighbors and customers that Rumpke implements the best available technology, the company invites them to see its operation in action. Each year, more than 10,000 people — including school groups, scout troops, civic groups, retirees and local business leaders — tour the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill in Cincinnati to get a first-hand look at its operations.

The tours also give the landfill operator a chance to offer explanations, alleviate concerns and promote the positive aspects of the facility. Rumpke started offering public tours nearly 20 years ago. Today, tours are available and encouraged at all Rumpke locations including recycling centers.

If interested customers or neighbors cannot visit a facility, Rumpke takes the information to them. Rumpke's communication team offers presentations that feature videos about landfill and recycling facilities. These presentations often result in lively discussions and provide opportunities for clarification and information sharing.

The public generally is interested in the waste industry, but it's often a mystery to them. Industry members have a responsibility to show the public that it can faithfully depend on the industry to manage waste appropriately.

Amanda Pratt is the corporate communications manager for Rumpke Consolidated Cos.