How To Remain King Of The Hill

Have you ever asked yourself how some landfills maintain competitive tipping fees while others price themselves into extinction? Or do you ever wonder why some landfills sail briskly along while others sink into a mire of environmental problems?

The answer is clear: sound planning and wise decision making.

Although the number of sites has steadily decreased, the safe, efficient and financially-sound landfills of the '90s have devised ways to prosper in today's rapidly changing and highly competitive industry.

An individual site's success is contingent upon its history, local conditions and its manager's ability to rise above the day-to-day grind of "putting out fires" to concentrate instead on planning and leadership. Such managers have learned to set standards for their crew and to delegate the tasks that otherwise would rob them of the time and energy needed to manage.

Administration A landfill manager's primary responsibility is the bottom line. This is an important - but often overlooked - concept, because while the industry wants to be environmentally responsible, landfills can only provide protection that they can pay for. The true cost of recycling, groundwater monitoring, methane control and landfill liners are eventually passed on to the bottom line where the facility either absorbs the cost, raises its rates or goes out of business.

Landfill managers are people managers too, a role that includes the day-to-day scheduling, coordinating and supervision of employees, consultants, suppliers and subcontractors. If there is a common trait that runs through all successful managers, it is that the best managers lead by praise and example.

Fostering teamwork also can pay off in big ways for managers, as demonstrated by Houston-based Browning-Ferris Industries' (BFI), "Break Through Teams."

Consisting of diverse groups of employees, the teams evaluate specific sections or areas within the company for efficiency, cost-effectiveness and/or profitability, according to Jim Leiter, site manager for BFI's Missoula, Mont., landfill.

Their assignments are short-term (5-10 weeks) and include one or two meetings per week. The management empowers the team to make important decisions, and a facilitator helps keep things on track.

As an assignment, the team - often consisting of landfill, administration and hauling company representatives - might be asked to evaluate the landfill shop's efficiency. In addition to brainstorming, the group can enlist the aid of consultants to find a solution. Once the evaluation is complete, their recommendations to hire, fire or spend money are implemented.

Delegate, Delegate The "Break Through Teams" are examples of any manager's best tool - delegation.

Managers may say that their job is "to run the landfill," and while this is true administratively, no manager can single-handedly accomplish this task. Rather, the manager's job is to coordinate and delegate.

In order to delegate effectively, managers must communicate and set clearly-defined standards, such as safety procedures.

Landfill safety is the manager's responsibility, and although some safety items can be delegated to a foreman or safety officer, the manager remains responsible if someone gets hurt.

Though safety is mainly common sense, landfills still should develop a formal safety program, which may include specific policies, procedures, emergency response plans, intensive training and safety meetings.

Sadly, many excellent safety programs aren't implemented, so when an accident occurs, everyone scrambles to figure out what to do. Some managers admit that they don't have time to hold safety meetings; just 15 minutes a month can be a chore.

In some cases, safety meetings are avoided because the moderator isn't sure what topics to discuss. Good ideas for safety meetings can be drawn from equipment dealers, consultants, safety associations or from the site's historic safety problems. Oftentimes, crews can be valuable sources for meeting topics.

At small landfills, the manager may lead the meetings or allow a foreman or crew leader to do the job. Similarly, other safety functions may be assigned, however, managers should mandate feedback to insure that the tasks are accomplished.

Regulatory Compliance Regulatory compliance is a mandatory, costly and a potentially overwhelming requirement for landfill management. Most landfills are subject to numerous regulatory agencies, each with their own unique - and often conflicting - requirements.

One of today's hottest issues is air quality. Under Subtitle D, landfills must monitor methane gas, specifically around structures and property lines. If monitoring detects gas concentrations beyond certain trigger limits, you must install a control system. Unfortunately, a control system installed to meet Subtitle D standards may not meet New Source Performance Standards (NSPS).

Instituted on March 12, 1996, NSPS affects landfills which began accepting waste on or after May 30, 1991. While Subtitle D's triggers are based on gas migration, NSPS is based on gas production potential and does not apply to landfills with less than a 2.5 million cubic meter capacity. However, any landfill that falls below this limit still can be subject to NSPS, based on future capacity increase.

States can develop their own rules, as long as they meet NSPS minimum standards. Otherwise, regulatory responsibility falls to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Surface water is another concern. Under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit requirements, landfills must have a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The SWPPP should include a description of the potential pollutant sources and an approved stormwater control system.

In many cases, simple stormwater controls will suffice. These controls, which are known as Best Management Practices (BMPs) frequently include:

* seeding exposed slopes;

* placing silt fences or straw bales to restrict sediment transport;

* constructing berms to direct surface water flow;

* installing culverts and/or down-drains as needed; and

* isolating likely sources of pollution with berms or containment ponds.

C&D Regs In a recent rule revision (EPA530-F-96-036), the EPA established that location restrictions, groundwater monitoring and corrective action standards will apply to construction and demolition (C&D) landfills which receive conditionally exempt small quantity generator hazardous waste (CESQG).

Because virtually all C&D landfills receive some amount of CESQG hazardous waste, this means that C&D landfills that do not meet these new requirements may not accept C&D waste.

After publication of the final rule, there will be an 18-month phase-in period for the location restrictions and a 24-month adjustment for groundwater monitoring requirements.

The Five-Mile Buffer In a recent report to Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a five-mile buffer for airports, which would apply to new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.

In their report, the FAA considered only putrescible waste to be a potential bird attractant. Thus, transfer stations, material recovery facilities (MRF) and C&D landfills most likely will not have to meet this criteria.

Many larger sites have internal groups whose sole function is to keep up with changing rules and to insure regulatory compliance. However, small, independent landfills that have a tougher time staying current are turning to the EPA, state, trade association or consultant-sponsored workshops to stay on top of the issues. Managers can delegate much of this regulatory compliance workload to free them from some time-consuming busy-work.

Operations At least 90 percent of a typical landfill's cost is attributed to the site's containment structures - liners, leachate and gas control systems and final cover - and to operational tasks such as pushing, compacting and covering trash.

It's easy to get into a rut and to blindly follow procedures. However, starting from scratch and evaluating operations one piece at a time can give new priority perspectives.

For example, at many landfills, the gatehouse attendant/collector position is viewed as a non-technical job. If he shows up for work on time and can make change, then he's qualified. However, a collector could handle millions of dollars in revenue per year. In other businesses, a person handling this amount of money would be a degreed professional. That isn't to say that all collectors should have a college degree, but managers should think twice regarding collectors' selection and training.

Here's another example: Assume that providing a cubic yard of airspace costs $8, including the cost of land, permitting, design, liner, leachate collection and gas control. A 600-ton-per-day landfill, achieving 1,200 pounds per cubic yard and a three to one cover ratio will use 1,333 cubic yards of airspace daily. This equates to $11,667 worth of airspace every day - or more than $3 million per year - in airspace costs alone.

How much time are you, as a manager, able to spend finding ways to reduce airspace usage? Many managers regretfully report spending so much time sweating through the small stuff that they're unable to focus on matters that can make a difference to their site's economic picture. Many landfills that revisit their priorities find numerous areas where efficiency can be improved and where money can be saved, such as:

*Site Planning. Successful, competitive landfills know where they're going. Spontaneity might be fun at Disneyland, but it's a poor way to run a landfill. Site planning typically starts with a long-range site development plan which should show the complete development from start to finish. Specifically, it should address things like excavation and fill areas, access, leachate and gas systems and drainage.

The next step in planning is to develop an annual access plan which details how the site will be operated. By establishing goals to work toward in the site development plan, your site can operate more efficiently day-to-day. For example, whenever you develop an access road, excavation area or surface water drainage facility, you can be working toward the long-term plans which were designed in the site development plan. This allows you to construct for maximum life and utilization. Additionally, by preparing an annual access plan, your site's planners will be forced to think through that critical time of wet-weather/winter access.

*Operational tasks. Most landfill tasks are repetitive. Breaking the entire operation into basics and then reviewing each one can identify the optimum methods.

For example, when constructing a daily refuse cell, the landfill crew must determine its size and shape. From the standpoint of conserving cover soil, the cell should be constructed so as to minimize surface area. A cell that contains 500 cubic yards of waste could have the dimensions illustrated in the table on page 25.

Based on a common width of 60', the cover soil requirements are for various combinations of cell length and depth. Based on $8 per cubic yard for airspace, annual airspace expenditures (for cover soil) range from $418,000 to $461,000 per year.

Thus, for this landfill, a cell geometry of 60' x 28' x 8' yields the least surface area. This cell geometry becomes the standard. To take this one step further, you could establish a cover soil budget of 145 cubic yards per day.

In the future, landfill managers must accomplish more with less. Within that difficult job description, there are dozens of tasks that can be delegated.

Just think of it: a group of competent individuals, working together as a team under the direction of a focused, fore-sighted leader. That's what landfill management is all about.

Neal Bolton, author of The Hand-book of Landfill Operations, is principal of Blue Ridge Services, Bozeman, Mont. (406) 587-8771. E-mail: [email protected]

* An average landfill manager is 43 years old and has 13 years' waste industry experience - eight of which is in a management position.

* Landfill managers have an average of four years of college education in a variety of disciplines, such as engineering (39 percent), business (31 percent) and science and education (15 percent each). They also have had prior engineering experience (33 percent), business (17 percent), refuse hauling (11 percent) and other (11 percent).

* Thirty-six percent of the private landfill managers surveyed said they receive an annual bonus based on their site's profitability.

* Nearly 40 percent ranked "people management" as their top priority.

* Twenty-eight percent listed landfill management as their main or only job experience.

* Aqua Shed Manufacturing Corp. Soil stabilizers, raincoats, daily covers, berm flaps and clay liner protection. Contact: Fritz Kramer, 214 Industrial Park Blvd., P.O. Box 3384, Florence, S.C. 29502. (800) 661-6646. Fax: (803) 661-7466.

* Atlantic Screen & Manufacturing. Slotted vertical or horizontal pipe. Contact: Pat Law son, 118 Broad Kill Rd., Milton, Del. 19968. (302) 684-3197. Fax: (302) 684-0643.

* Bio Safe International Inc. Landfill management and remodeling. Contact: Joseph Motz kin, 10 Fawcett St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138. (617) (617) 497-4500. Fax: (617) 497-6355.

* Central Fiber Corp. Alternative daily covers. Contact: Gregg Krause, 4814 Fiber Lane., Wellsville, Kan. 66092. (913) 883-4600. Fax: (913) 883-4429.

* The C.H. Hanson Company. Reinforced polyethylene covers, geomembranes, geotextiles and secondary containment. Con tact: Larry Krull, 3630 North Wolf Rd., Frank lin Park, Ill. 60131. (800) 837-3398. Fax: (800) 827-5834.

* EPI Environmental Products Inc. Alternative daily covers. Contact: Jim Kynor, 2 Clarke Dr., Conroe, Texas 77301. (800) 788-3745. Fax: (409) 788-2968.

* Kut-Kwick Corp. Heavy duty mowing equipment. Contact: Robert L. North, P.O. Box 984, Brunswick, Ga. 31521. (800) 248 5945. Fax: (912) 265-6774.

* Odin International Inc.'s THOR division. Alternate daily covers, interim covers, roll-off container tarps, transfer trailer covers and roller systems. Contact: Dave Urban, P.O. Box 203428, Austin, Texas 78720-3428. (800) 223-8467. Fax: (800) 223-8407. E-Mail: thor [email protected]

* Odor Control Company Inc. Odor control chemicals and systems. Contact: Barbara Lang, P.O. Box 5740, Scottsdale, Ariz. 85261 (602) 948-3956. Fax: (602) 451-010. E-Mail:[email protected]

* Odor Control Technology. Odor control consulting, equipment, chemicals and monitoring services. Contact: Jim Sheridan, 2394 2394 Monroe Dr., Gainesville, Ga. 30507.(770) 538-0359. Fax: (770) 538-0359. E-Mail: [email protected] COM

* Rusmar Incorporated. Long duration foam for alternate daily cover material. Con tact: Laura White, 216 Garfield Avenue, West Chester, Pa. 19380. (800) 733-626. Fax: (610) 436-8436.

* Synthetic Industries Inc. Manufactures polypropylene fibers and textiles. Contact: Kemp Harr, 4019 Industry Dr., P.O. Box 22788, Chattanooga, Tenn. 37422. 423) 892-8080. Fax: (423) 499-0753.Tensar Earth Technologies Inc. Engineering services and geogrids. Contact: Ron Johnson, 5775-B Glenridge Dr., Ste. 450, Atlanta, Ga. 30328. (800) TENSAR-1. Fax: (404) 250-9185. E-Mail: [email protected] com

* Tenax Corp. Geocomposites and geo grids for use in landfill lining and closure applications. Contact: Peter Ianneillo, 4800 East Monument St., Baltimore, Md.21205. (800) 356-8495, Ext. 109. Fax: (410) 522-3977. E-Mail: tenaxusa@