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Go Big or Go HomeGo Big or Go Home

December 1, 2006

3 Min Read
Go Big or Go Home

Shawn-Laree de St. Aubin

The solid waste authority(SWA) of Palm Beach County, Fla., operates a large system of integrated waste facilities. To effectively manage the county's waste, the SWA's system combines a large landfill with a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant, a vegetation processing facility, a composting plant, two materials recycling facilities, household hazardous waste collection sites and a network of five municipal solid waste transfer stations.

SWA's recycling program accepts compost, newspaper and aluminum. With rising garbage collections, the authority's WTE plant processes approximately 3,000 to 4,000 tons of garbage a day. SWA sells enough generated energy to the Florida Power & Light to power the equivalent of 30,000 area homes.

When the SWA first opened its current landfill site, the plan was to provide the area with enough dumping capacity to last until the year 2012. But after aggressive site modifications to increase capacity, it estimates that the same site will reach capacity in the year 2027. This is in part a testament to the aggressive recycling initiatives that the SWA employs.

As the population of West Palm Beach has swelled to nearly to 1.4 million, SWA's operations have grown to meet the demands of the community. To accommodate the increased waste intake, the SWA decided to upgrade one of the machines in its landfill dozer fleet. According to SWA officials, the organization purchased Komatsu's D375A-5 crawler dozer for its 525-horsepower engine, which enables it to push more garbage, and its heavier operating weight of 148,382 pounds, which makes it a more effective compactor.

“What prompted us to go bigger is that we're continuing to take more and more garbage every day here in the landfill,” says SWA Assistant Supervisor Doug Galbraith. “Although we have the waste-to-energy facility, it's constantly at capacity. So, we're getting more and more garbage, and the [dozer] gives us more capacity to handle it. It's the biggest dozer we've ever had, and we believe that we'll continue to purchase larger dozers in the future.”

SWA is unique in that its maintenance team is primarily responsible for making purchasing decisions on new machinery. “I would say it's probably a little different from other places,” says SWA Equipment Maintenance Supervisor Matt Chapman. “In other places, the operations department will order machines, and then maintenance just has to kind of live with it.”

Gary Vernati, senior mechanic with SWA, says the new machine is easy to maintain. “The diagnostics system and the well-placed service points on the dozer make it easy to service so you don't need a laptop to work on it,” he says. “And we don't have to clean final drives anymore. This is such a positive thing and one of the best features when it comes to maintenance.”

One of the special requirements SWA had for the new dozer was a semi-U blade designed especially for landfill work like covering and closure. “The only complaint we've had from the operators is that we built the blade too high so that they couldn't see very well,” Vernati says. “We added some holes in the center of it to increase visibility.”

Since arriving on site at SWA in October 2005, the dozer has logged approximately 1,000 hours. The result, says Galbraith, is some breathing room in handling day-to-day loads. “It averages 50 percent more per push than any other dozer out here, so it's been great,” he says. “The machine will push as much as you can get on the blade, and it's a very comfortable, reliable machine.”

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