Compacting the Problem

With more landfills across the United States closing, the burden on transfer stations to handle the trash grows. For the Jefferson County Solid Waste Management Facility, Port Townsend, Wash., this truth posed a serious problem. After realizing that its existing transfer station equipment could not handle the amount of trash efficiently, officials had to make a choice: Replace existing equipment with more of the same, or retrofit the transfer station with new stationary equipment. The county decided to retrofit - the more cost-efficient option.

In 1992, when Port Townsend's landfill reached capacity and closed, the county built a temporary transfer station - equipped with a backhoe for compaction and load distribution - to load transfer trailers for waste-by-rail shipment. Officials soon realized that the equipment there was not efficient or cost effective enough to handle the trash.

Consequently, when the county replaced the temporary transfer station with a permanent one, they knew they would need to address this dilemma.

Located at the Jefferson County Waste Management Facility site, the permanent transfer station opened in July 1995 and includes a biosolids composting facility (owned and operated by the City of Port Townsend), the closed landfill and a recycling facility. The transfer station is equipped with a tipping floor to handle municipal solid waste and construction debris.

Additionally, the 238-acre site houses an animal shelter, a gun club and a fire station, presently under construction.

The site serves approximately 27,000 people in the city of Port Townsend and the surrounding Jefferson County area.

The permanent transfer station originally was designed for a stationary compaction crane, but high costs for the building prevented the county from purchasing one at the initial transfer station construction.

Consequently, the county used a backhoe to load and compact waste into transfer trailers.

As downtime and maintenance costs increased, the county searched for alternative ways to load and compact waste, keeping in mind that trailers needed to be fully loaded with more than 28 tons per load.

The county considered three options: Replace the existing backhoe with a newer one, buy a new excavator or buy a new stationary crane.

After contacting several solid waste operations by phone and visiting others to inspect their machinery, a spreadsheet was prepared to help the county evaluate short- and long-term investments, ease of retrofitting, equipment history and versatility, and operator comfort.

From this, equipment type and specifications were developed, taking into account the trailers currently being used and those that would be used in the future.

Rabanco Inc., Bellevue, Wash., has handled long-haul and disposal services for the county since August 1993 by subcontracting transportation services to Lemay Enterprises, Aberdeen, Wash., and hauling to Nikodym Trucking, Port Angeles, Wash.

Eventually, the county decided on a knuckleboom crane from Crane Equipment Manufacturing Corp., Eugene, Ore., which Dennis Bates, Jefferson County Solid Waste foreman, says reduces compaction time from 90 minutes to 30 minutes per trailer.

The crane was not installed to increase the average weight of the loads shipped, because the facility already was at maximum capacity per load.

The building/equipment retrofit was completed in August 1997 at a total cost of $153,000.

The design, planning and bidding process took approximately nine months, and foundation modifications and equipment installation took one and a half months.

Because the facility's foundation was designed originally for a crane, installation time and cost were reduced significantly.

Frank Hall, solid waste specialist at Jefferson County says operations have improved greatly since the retrofit, evidenced by reductions in downtime and maintenance costs.

"We ship two and a half to three trailers per day," he says. "Our trailers are almost always full by weight - we seldom send a trailer with less than 28 tons of waste."

He adds that the retrofit has reduced weight distribution and compaction time by approximately 75 percent, meeting the county's goal.

Hall says the county currently is not considering any other expansion or modification plans for the transfer station.

"It is feasible that other programs may center all or part of their operation adjacent to the transfer station," Hall says. The transfer station's tipping fees also support other solid waste programs, including moderate risk waste, recycling, used oil collection, administration and planning programs that may share employees and other resources in the future. WA

* Solid Waste Services: Transfer station operations, landfill monitoring, biosolids composting, commodity recycling, household hazardous waste collection, solid waste education.

* Service Area: Jefferson County is approximately 1,815 square miles - East Jefferson County, including the City of Port Townsend, 275 square miles; Olympic National Park and Forest, 1,100 square miles; and West Jefferson County, 440 square miles.

* Refuse Processed: Maximum capacity of 85 tons per day (tpd), 47 tpd average. Waste is hauled by truck to Centralia, Wash., then transported by rail more than 300 miles to a landfill in Goldendale, Wash.

* Hauling: Long haul services contracted to Rabanco Inc., Bellevue, Wash. and handled by Nikodym Trucking, Port Angeles, Wash. Trash is transferred to Bellevue, Ore.-based Rabanco's Goldendale, Wash., landfill.

* Waste Sources: 30 percent private haulers, 33 percent city-operated collection and 37 percent commercial haulers.

* Employees: In the transfer station there are three part-time transfer station attendants, two full-time operators/supervisors, one full-time scale attendant and one part-time scale attendant. The biosolids composting facility includes two full-time city employees. The household hazardous waste facility employs one full-time county worker. The recycling operation and solid waste education are both handled by private contractors.

* Local Tipping Fees: Flat rate $110 per ton, with some exceptions: Appliances with refrigeration units, $19.12 per unit; and asbestos, if accepted, $143.40 per ton. There is a minimum charge of $4.78 per trip, and all fees are subject to a 3.6 percent state solid waste tax.