Touring WCA's Fort Bend Regional Landfill

Waste360 had the chance to tour WCA's Fort Bend Regional Landfill during the NWRA Women’s Council 2019 President’s Conference in Houston.

Just outside of Houston, WCA Waste Corp. owns 2,600 acres of property in Needville, Texas. Situated on a 1,200-acre footprint of the property is WCA’s Fort Bend Regional Landfill, which takes in roughly 5,000 tons of non-hazardous municipal solid waste (MSW) per day.  

Earlier this month, Waste360 had the chance to tour the landfill—and do a little skeet shooting on WCA’s property—during the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) Women’s Council 2019 President’s Conference.

Jennifer Glowacki, the corporate environmental compliance engineer for WCA Waste, who led the landfill tour, said the landfill, which has been in operation since 2004, is about 150 feet above ground elevation and 230 feet above sea level and has a roughly 21-year lifespan as permitted.

Glowacki explained that the landfill used to be an old sulfur mining pit, and WCA took over operations in 2006.

“We accept quite a bit of waste, so we are building more cells,” Glowacki pointed out during the tour. “This is cell 11, and we will likely have it filled up by next year. We already have plans to build the next cell starting in January. Each cell is about 12 acres.”

The MSW landfill accepts non-industrial waste and non-hazardous waste and has a leachate filtration system that pumps leachate into the landfill’s designated leachate pond. From the pond, leachate will either evaporate or recirculate or be transported to a wastewater treatment facility for disposal. WCA also has a 5-acre phytoremediation site at the top of the landfill where leachate gets pumped into underground irrigation and then distributed to landfill vegetation.

In addition to MSW, the landfill accepts Class 1 non-hazardous, industrial waste, also known as special waste—much of which is liquid waste. Before that waste is disposed, it goes through a liquid solidification area and is mixed with a bulking agent—sawdust or woodchips—to prevent leaching before it is disposed at the active base. Additionally, Glowacki pointed out, Class 1 waste areas of the landfill have additional liners to prevent leaching.

Inbound and outbound scales at the facility weigh trucks as they come and go. Incoming trucks pay for tonnage they bring in. And many special waste customers are pulled over and checked to ensure they are bringing in what they say they are.

The facility also houses a high BTU (British thermal unit) gas plant, where landfill gas is treated and then sold via pipeline to Houston Lighting & Power.

“We also have a temporary flare from back when we started accepting Hurricane Harvey waste,” explained Glowacki. “That waste had a lot of high H2S (hydrogen sulfide) in it, and if waste gets high H2S readings, we can’t process it, so we take it up to a temporary flare and flare it off.”

After Hurricane Harvey hit the area, Glowacki noted that the landfill received odor complaints from neighboring residents. She said WCA acted by implementing additional liners to mitigate those odors.

WCA has about 1,700 employees, and the Fort Bend Regional Landfill is one of the company’s larger landfills. WCA has about 19 active landfills and two inactive landfills, 17 transfer stations and 17 hauling companies within the WCA umbrella, mainly covering the southern area—Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Colorado and New Mexico. Four WCA landfills have gas plants on them—two are high BTU gas plants and two are electricity—where the gas is immediately turned into electricity at the facility. Within the next year, two additional landfills also will build gas plants, said Glowacki.

“WCA operates several trucks on compressed natural gas (CNG)—360 trucks are CNG,” she added. “We have compressed natural gas stations that we built in the last couple years. All our facilities have gas monitoring around the perimeter to ensure there are no issues.”

Women's Council Looks to 2020

Throughout the event, Women’s Council (WC) members toured the landfill and did some skeet shooting on the grounds. The event was part of the 2019 WC Fall Tour, in which Faith Zydowsky, vice president of Sierra Container Group, was named the council’s new president. The group’s current president Carmen Smothers, dealer and OEM development manager at 3rd Eye, facilitated this year's events.

“Carmen did a fantastic job creating an extraordinary program that attendees are still talking about,” said Zydowsky after the conference. “I feel very fortunate for having had the opportunity to serve the Women’s Council in 2019 amongst a board of exceptional talent. Carmen has been an inspirational role model to me both personally and professionally, inspiring me to work diligently as a servant leader to the 2020 membership. My objective is to continue providing our members with an exceptional foundation laid and improved upon by many boards past.”

“The strength of the NWRA Women’s Council collectively lies in our active members and the companies that support them,” she added. “In 2020, we will utilize their diverse talents to expand upon what we do best. The council’s mission is to serve our industry and members by providing education, networking, professional development and the award of academic scholarships.”

In line with the council’s mission, Zydowsky said some 2020 plans are to:

  • Continue growth of active membership by creating networking and volunteer opportunities on committees, at WasteExpo and for the 2020 Fall Tour.

  • Increase exposure and awareness of the NWRA WC mission and scholarship utilizing social media.

  • Partner with the Environmental Research & Education Foundation to promote the 2019 Internship Toolkit (Created by the 2019 WC Professional Development Committee).

Below are the 2020 Women’s Council Board members:

NWRA Women’s Council comprises seasoned and new professionals in the waste and recycling industry. The work of the council is to give back to the solid waste and recycling industry with projects and programs such as the newest project—NWRA Women’s Council Industry Internship Toolkit designed to encourage and foster careers in the industry. This works in tandem with its Academic Scholarships program for NWRA members' company employees or dependents. The Women’s Council has raised more than $200,000 since inception and has awarded 48 scholarships to students, noted Peggy Macenas, Women’s Council vice president for the Midwest Region. The program has been expanded to include trade school students and those returning to the workforce.

“These dedicated Women’s Council members are always looking to enhance this industry and through their work have forced a great work network not to mention friendships,” said Macenas.   

Flip through this gallery for a more in-depth look at the Women’s Council 2019 President’s Conference and WCA's Fort Bend Regional Landfill operations.

About the Author(s)

Cristina Commendatore

Former Senior Editor, Waste360

Cristina Commendatore is the former Senior Editor for Waste360. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Connecticut. Before joining the Waste360 team, Cristina spent several years covering the trucking and transportation industry.

Mallory Szczepanski

Vice President of Member Relations and Publications, NWRA

Mallory Szczepanski was previously the editorial director for Waste360. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, where her research focused on magazine journalism. She also has previously worked for Contract magazine, Restaurant Business magazine, FoodService Director magazine and Concrete Construction magazine.

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