How To Plan A Rural Transfer Station

When Subtitle D became a reality, many small communities were faced with an ultimatum: spend a considerable amount of money to update their landfill or find a viable alternative. By 1992, North Platte, Neb., found itself at that crossroad.

While the city was reviewing the cost of constructing a city landfill, a private landfill was approved to be built 60 to 70 miles to the west. Reportedly, this site could handle all waste generated within a 75-mile radius for 20 years. Taking advantage of a favorable 5- to 10-year contract with the landfill, North Platte began planning a transfer facility coupled with recycling and composting.

Since its landfill had to close by October 1, 1993, the city received a temporary emergency permit for transferring waste from an open site until the station was complete.

Defining The Operations The city aimed to keep the operation as simple as possible. It had to keep building and development costs low, maintain competitive tipping fees and plan for future needs.

First, North Platte defined its operational scope: The facility would serve North Platte and surrounding Lincoln County - approximately 32,000 people within a 25-mile radius.

The city's waste comes from two sources: 60 percent from four or five private haulers and 40 percent from city collections. Additionally, North Platte accepts waste from approximately 250 individuals monthly.

The city also calculated the transfer station's operating capacity, daily waste volume and types. "Our Department of Environmental Control permit calls for a 185 tons per day (tpd) maximum, with a typical day of about 85 tons," explained Wes Meyer, public services director.

Next, they determined they needed six "maintenance worker III" employees: two at the station, two scale operators to weigh all incoming and outgoing loads and one to three who load and drive the trucks to the landfill.

Tackling The Finances Originally, a consultant was hired to design the station, but due to the tight construction market and other factors, the bids soared to $1.4 million instead of the $865,000 budgeted. Pressured for time, the city contracted CAS Construction Inc., Topeka, Kan., to modify the original design to fit the budget and would retain the proposed size. The re-design worked: The final building cost approximately $885,000.

To keep the costs down, North Platte lease-purchased the basic building and equipment through Banc One Leasing, Denver, and performed as much of the exterior site work with its own employees and equipment.

Establishing tipping fees to cover the operational costs required extensive consideration. Rates at the now-closed landfill were $13.50 per ton with an extra charge of $1.50 per tire and $10 per appliance.

However, since the landfill did not compost or separate material other than tires and appliances, North Platte could not use the old fees as a benchmark.

Using its experience with its old site, and considering the new services, the city decided to charge (per ton) $29 for transfer waste; $23 for clean wood waste and asphalt shingles; $15 for compostable yard waste; and $5 per tire and $10 per appliance.

While these rates are higher than those at the old site, they still are lower than charges that would be required by a new Subtitle D landfill.

Building Type And Equipment Today, North Platte's transfer station handles approximately 25,500 tons per year (tpy) plus a variety of other materials, including wood (2,300 tpy); yard waste compost (6,200 tpy); appliance recycling (1,600 appliances per year); tire handling (4,500 tires per year); battery recycling (500 batteries per year); and corrugated cardboard recycling (50 tpy).

Most of the waste is residential and commercial, but some light industrial and construction/demolition waste also is accepted.

The two-level facility's drive-through lower level can handle two semitractor trailer combination trucks while the upper level provides enough space for a two-bay tipping floor with two loading pits.

Behind each pit is a Grizzly knuckleboom crane, manufactured by Crane Equipment, Eugene, Ore., with combination tamper/grapple buckets. The cranes are used to keep the floor clean, to compact and rearrange the trailer loads and to pull out unwanted items from the waste stream.

An office, which also houses the crane's controls, is in a small, enclosed room between the two pits.

North Platte uses a variety of other handling equipment. For example, all incoming and outgoing waste is weighed on a scale made by Fair-banks, Kansas City, Kan.

Incoming waste is dumped on the tipping floor or into open top trailers. A loader, manufactured by Caterpillar, Peoria, Ill. pushes the waste dumped on the floor into the trailers.

The transfer station uses six open top, 90-cubic-yard push-out trailers, made by East, Randolph, Ohio.

Corrugated cardboard is removed and baled in a baler made by J.V. Manufacturing, Green Bay, Wis.

Meyer stressed the importance of working with equipment dealers who are willing to provide answers to planners' questions. "For example, our local Caterpillar dealer provides ongoing training in operation and maintenance," he said. "And all of the other equipment manufacturers and dealers gave on-site training at the time of start-up and/or installation."

This equipment is kept on a scheduled maintenance and repair program. "A file is maintained on each piece, and the equipment is serviced or repaired at designated intervals," Meyer said.

Additionally, the equipment operators fill out daily equipment use sheets and work orders for maintenance/repair needs.

So, what has North Platte learned? Building a transfer station for a small community can be daunting, but it is not impossible.

"Once the decision is made to transfer waste, visit as many transfer stations as possible to see what is already being done," Meyer suggested.

"Ask questions, get exact answers as possible on amounts handled, costs, employees and duties, and days and hours," he said. "Talk to equipment manufacturers, and before hiring a consultant, have a definite idea of what you want."

Processing Equipment: Fairbanks, model 90-164-I scale; Caterpillar IT 18 loader with a Balderson grip and grab bucket; Grizzly Model 215SW knuckleboom crane

Refuse Processed: 185 tons per day maximum capacity, 85 tons per day average

Waste Sources And Percentages: 60 percent private haulers, 40 percent city-operated collection system

Employees: Six maintenance worker III employees at transfer station Service Area: North Platte and surrounding Lincoln county, approximately 25-mile radius

Local Tipping Fees: $29 per ton

Anecdote: The most unusual items ever discovered at the facility were a used burial vault and a live skunk.