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Articles from 1997 In November
Saving Hard Money With Software
Remember the good old days, when file cabinets were bulging with records and a mouse was something you set a trap for?
While computers have changed all that, today's business people still must be convinced that any investment - including software - has to improve their bottom line.
"Our software definitely has saved time which saves money," says Cathy LaRocco, office manager for American Waste Systems (AWS), Lilburn, Ga. Her sentiment echoes industry-wide, because no matter if you manage a landfill, a waste facility or a collection service, impeccable time management is your cornerstone in achieving the competitive edge.
Just ask software veteran Gene Dunn, vice president of American Waste Control Inc., the largest privately-owned commercial and industrial waste company in Tulsa, Okla., who computerized his operations in 1983.
"When we purchased our first computer, we went from a manual system of billing, collections and routing to a fully-automated system," he says. "Our initial investment in 1983 was a lot for a small, growing company. Since then, we have upgraded either equipment or software or both about every two years."
His goals? Saving money and making money. Did it happen? You bet. "Our expectations were realized fully right from the start," he says. "By using this system, we were able to increase productivity and profitability without increasing personnel."
Not all software can fit the bill when it comes to your operation's unique needs, and a little forethought and financial planning will go a long way in realizing a system's full potential. Fortunately, with the recent technological hardware and software advances, solid waste managers enjoy a greater choice.
For example, new, user-friendly, PC-based software which provides fast, accurate billing, scalehouse management and reporting have been developed. Such software often includes a variety of interfaces which allow data to import into Windows-based programs for data analysis and report generation. The net result is that these programs will allow you to handle more customer accounts, while saving both time and money.
Refuse industry software falls into three major categories:
* Route management monitors and manages both vehicle operations and routing.
* Disposal site systems manage and report tonnages received at landfills or transfer stations. This software must be capable of maintaining a database of collection vehicle information, including customer accounts, vehicle tare weights/net load weights and should interface with on-site scales.
* Refuse billing/accounting software includes billing data, collection service levels and payment tracking and will provide some degree of interface with the first two categories.
A company's software package may combine any or all three of these categories and tailored for the user's needs. Some companies provide a complete or integrated package, while others offer separately-priced modules which are assembled into a user package.
When surveying the software available, the first question you should ask is: "How do I need to increase my productivity?" If your collection business is booming, then you want to increase the number of customer accounts handled by a customer service representative per hour.
For example, when AWS started a new company three years ago, it needed a software package that could keep pace with the projected rapid customer growth. "We were looking for flexibility, because in three years, we've grown from zero customers to 16,000 customers," LaRocco says. "The software had to be able to change as we grew."
Besides flexibility, user-friendliness and menu-driven screens ranked high on her software feature priority list. The selected software, designed by AOL Technologies, Reno, Nev., allows one person to input approximately 200 new accounts per day, keeping up with the pace of AWS' business, she reports.
Adaptability was also the primary software feature sought by Nick Casagrande, manager of information systems for Eastern Environmental Services of Florida in Dania. "When we started, we had two trucks and needed a software package that could grow with our needs," he says. "Since it had to handle the large volume of customers, I looked for a program that was not only fast but flexible, that would let me do route profitability in the future and also allow me to write my own software."
Get What You Need Understanding your present and future needs is critical when selecting and implementing a new software package. For the city of Tucson, Ariz., the ability to link disposal sites with a central billing system and with each other was a necessity.
Before installing the software, none of the sites had computer communications, reports Karen Hochede, systems analyst. "The only interaction we had [among sites] were phone lines. We tried to update the master file in our administrative office and then send updates to each landfill, but we could only do this once a week," she says.
"We needed to get a system where we regularly could share data among the sites." Increasing communications through networking software eliminated the "window of opportunity" that allowed delinquent customers to sneak into another site that did not have records of the outstanding balance.
Reporting was another critical issue. "Because we didn't have a lot of the data combined, reporting was a labor-intensive task," Hochede says.
The selected system, purchased from Ontario-based PC Automation allows Hochede's office to perform reporting it was unable to do before. For example, the system automatically updates each site daily, rather than weekly.
"After the sites are closed, we take the individual daily transactions, bring them to the central administration office, run background programs to synchronize the data and move the transactions to the main server which we then can send into our billing system," she says.
Simultaneously, any individual account updates that have occurred during the day are transferred to all the sites so that they have current information the following morning.
"We also have the option of doing this at intervals throughout the day," she says. "Or if the main office needs to open an account immediately, it can dial directly into the site, make the change and allow that account to use the landfill that same day." With older generations of software, features might be limited in relation to your present operation, and an upgrade is your best bet. For example, Matthew McCauley, vice president of Resource Recovery Systems, Centerbrook, Conn., found the first generations to be limited in their ability to handle multiple tonnage off a single truck at his material recovery facility.
"They had a lot of problems dealing with compartmentalized vehicles," he explains. "We had to use the truck's light weight from the first load as the gross weight for the second load. Most systems can do that in a rudimentary form where you take the truck off the scale and start the ticket over. Essentially, we had to change our operation to suit the software."
However, the newer generations have eliminated such problems, allowing McCauley to track multiple material weights with just one pass. And, although the selected vendor, Creative Information Systems, Manchester, N.H., did not have the precise applications McCauley needed, he says the company "was able to address our need by modifying the software to provide [the necessary] feature."
Know The Features Identifying the features that are most important to you also is critical to selecting the most appropriate software.
When the Trail Road Landfill, Ottawa-Carlton, Canada, purchased its systems, it focused on three essential features, reports Chris Woods, waste scale supervisor. "User friendliness was a must," he says. "If you have a package that is difficult to understand, then the imputted information can be erroneous.
"But," he continues, "equally important is consistency and security. The security is inherent at the operating system level as well as at the application level."
The third - and for some, the most critical - feature Trail Road sought was vendor customer support. "The support has been there when we've needed it," Wood says. "It's important because there usually isn't an awful lot of technical expertise residing at a landfill site."
What else is crucial? "Customer support, training and warranties on equipment go hand-in-hand," says Dunn, who experienced "very few problems" installing his system from North American Business Technology, Cockeysville, Md.
A vendor's knowledge of the refuse industry - and how they incorporate that knowledge into the software - are other qualities to watch for, he adds.
While most software vendors are sensitive to their customer's needs and try to be accommodating, realistically, it is difficult for them to meet 100 percent of everyone's requirements with one package. So, sometimes, you might have to accept software that meets most, but not all of your requirements.
"Some of the features within our package are flexible, and some of them are the way we get them," says Dave Carter, waste scale technician for the municipality of Toronto. "It meets what we need it for right now. But, there are some changes that we would like to see happen."
The municipality is in constant contact with its software vendor, who Carter reports has been "pretty good at making changes for us and coming up with ideas that will accommodate us as well as other customers." However, he acknowledges, "They're not going to put something in a package that's specifically just for us, excluding everyone else. We'll pay for that portion if that's the case."
Innovative software which may allow a user to integrate a variety of components pushes the efficiency envelope in refuse operations.
For instance, the landfill system of Merced County, Calif., is a 24-hour-per-day operation. Currently, a scale house operator must be scheduled at night to handle the more than 10 trucks that use the landfill during these hours. However, Merced expects that a creative combination of software and hardware will eliminate the night shift and, thus, increase productivity for both the landfill and its users.
"It's an add-on to the software package which runs like an ATM machine," explains Curt Hartog, solid waste manager. At the entrance, a driver punches in his truck number onto a mounted keypad which automatically records the data and spits out a ticket at the station.
"We have an automatic gate that's going to hook up to this computer that will open when the transaction is complete," he adds. "Right now, we have a guy who just sits out there and punches in those four digit numbers for the 10 or 11 trucks that arrive. The software will free him up so we can use him during the day."
The county also performed an analysis of its weigh loads to see if it can automate just the packer trucks during the day - a move which will slice the scale house attendant's workload in half.
"That's significant because now we can delay the need to add two scale house attendants by 10 years. It's a significant labor cost savings," he says.
"You've got to be efficient to survive, and part of [efficiency] is automating as much as you can and getting top-of-the-line software," Hartog continues. "Let's face it, that's your bottom line. If that scale house doesn't run, you don't make any money."
Motivate, Communicate Or Evaporate
Competition: It shakes the bolts loose on some operations. Others thrive on it. Competing is a process that begins by immersing yourself in information about your company, competitors and the playing field.
Successful competitors are pro-active, not reactive, and are flexible to change. They originate out of both the public and the private sectors, and serve as excellent examples for the rest of us. Here are three of their stories.
Hunker Down On Funky Town
Initially, the orchard fan worked well for the Spokane (Wash.) Regional Solid Waste System (SRSWS), when odors at its Colbert Composting Facility caught the attention and outrage of nearby residents. But, the solution-through-dilution concept was grounded quickly when complaints switched from a malodorous concern to that of an aerial nature.
"It was a 12-feet-diameter fan, very similar to an airplane propeller," explains Damon Taam, SRSWS director. "It was effective, but it sounded like a helicopter."
With a pending lawsuit to serve as a reminder of the odor problem's severity, Taam and his peers determined to find another solution that would make a considerate neighbor out of this integrated solid waste system that serves 370,000 residents.
This $2 million, 42-acre composting site houses a 500-horsepower electrical grinder, maintenance facility, loader, trommel screen and many windrows of compost. Odors plagued the facility due to the high volume of grass. "Composting leaves is easy," Taam says. "But when you start talking grass, you're on a whole other level. It comes in one big slug, but you've got to have a bulking material which we didn't have when we began the operation."
The odor nuisance for residents within a 1,000-foot radius multiplied at sunset: A stagnant air condition during the evenings resulted in air stratus following the contours of the land and eventually "hitting" residences. "You actually could walk into odor veins of about 50 feet wide and walk back out of them," Taam notes.
SRSWS selected a misting system using Odor Gone, a formula designed to neutralize odors, manufactured by Natural Products Inc., Jeffersonville, Pa. "Our air pollution laws don't allow us to mask odors," he explains. "They must be neutralized."
The odor control agent is deployed through a 1,900-foot misting system strung on aircraft cable hanging from telephone poles. Two pump houses, each with a seven-gallon-per-minute pump, adds the formula to filtered water at a dilution of 500 to one.
The system is controlled by automatic timers with manual override switches. It's operated daily for eight hours from 5 a.m. until 8 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Time periods are adjusted to provide coverage during the hours that odors move off site.
"When you make citizens unhappy, you've got a problem," he explains. "[Residents] want us gone. But, we've got $2 million invested in this site and [leaving is] just not an option."
Kephardt Trucking Co., Bigler, Pa., dispatches 190 trucks daily to the New York City metropolitan area and communities in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Fleet Manager Jack Yingling's armada transports baled and loose municipal solid waste, sludges and non-hazardous contaminated soils and dirts.
The 20-year-old company's home terminal is located in a semi-residential area which makes odor control one of Yingling's top priorities.
"Controlling odor is part of our 'good neighbor' policy," he explains. "We've never really done a true cost study, but gaining goodwill and doing the job right are the only ways to survive in the solid waste industry."
Yingling uses a biological-based product that accelerates the waste degradation process organically while controlling odor.
"Because we have to store trailers overnight, we've been using both the misters and direct application for a long time," he says.
In Holland, some solid waste haulers employ a similar product dispersed through fogger fans and nozzles. Every time waste is compacted and the smells are opened up, "a gadget hooked up to the air brakes" releases the misting agent and continuously deodorizes the area, reports Michael Larson of EcoCare, New Canaan, Conn.
Other products, such as those made by Epoleon Corp., Torrance, Calif., neutralize acidic and alkali gases through chemical conversions.
Some solid waste managers are going au naturel, employing naturally-occurring ozone to stifle their indoor stenches. Agents such as Sonozaire, manufactured by HoweBaker Engineers in Tyler, Texas, attach to odor molecules and break them down into something less noxious.
"Ozone is a self-policing compound: If it has nothing to react with, it will react with itself - meaning it has a life of six to 13 minutes," explains Howe-Baker's Curtis Nipp.
"It also lets you know it's in the air. If concentrations are correct, it smells sweet, good and clean. If concentrations get too high, your eyes water and nose runs and, in essence, it tells you to leave the room."
Besides controlling odors, ozone also retards bacterial growth and reduces slime and mildew in trash containers.
Containing The Rumpke Rumble In a matter of minutes, on March 9, 1996, 25 acres of waste and dirt broke loose from the closed cocoon of a 40-year-old landfill and came to rest in a newly-excavated, 12-acre cell. As members of the solid waste industry analyzed and speculated about the massive earth movement with a mixture of awe and selfish relief, officials with Rumpke Consolidated Companies, Cincinnati, worked to contain the largest landslide in landfill history.
"We knew right away - as did all of the regulatory agencies - that odor was one of our concerns," recalls Rumpke spokesperson John Leach. "We had old waste uncovered by the slide and, since it was March, we could expect to be working [to correct the problem] through the summer when odor really can be a problem."
Rumpke engineers determined the standard landfill practices of controlling odor with daily cover were impractical and insufficient due to the large area of uncovered waste at this 240-acre Rumpke Sanitary Landfill situated just outside the Cincinnati metropolitan area.
With noses covered, Rumpke officials' eyes turned to the 200 homes that had been built within a half-mile radius from the site. "The community was built around the landfill," says Landfill Manager Steve Keylor. "Most of the homes post-date the landfill which has existed for 40 years."
Rumpke's plan entailed a two-fold approach: Covering the exposed waste and controlling odors. Steep and dangerous slopes caused by the landslide prevented heavy equipment from being used to cover the immense area of exposed waste.
"We knew getting the waste covered would minimize odors, but the sheer magnitude of the slide would not totally eliminate them," Keylor says.
Rumpke officials selected Posi-Shell, a slurry of kiln dust, cellulose and water manufactured by Landfill Service Corp., Apalachin, N.Y., as a cover material because it could be sprayed on uncovered wastes from great distances, reducing the injury risk.
"Our second hurdle was odor," Keylor says. "We knew a masking agent would not be effective on the large quantity of odor expected." Rumpke selected a system manufactured by Ecolo Odor Systems, Toronto, that deploys essential, non-toxic oils through a series of strategically-placed nozzles. Once atomized into the air, the oils bond with and neutralize odor molecules.
The logistics demanded some creativity. Because areas around the landslide were inaccessible, officials constructed a make-shift clothesline around the slide's perimeter to allow continuous spraying. "Plastic tubing was strung along poles in the air," he says. "At each pole, there's a nozzle. The tubing carries the agent from storage where it's mixed with water."
Rumpke officials currently operate a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week odor abatement program.
The system's cost must be put in the perspective of the overall landslide problem, Keylor notes. "From an operations perspective, it's rather expensive, but then I look at it in perspective to the number of complaints we could have received. It takes a day or two to see some results and [the system's] gone down a few times in the winter, but in cold weather, you don't have as many odors."
While complaints were reduced, Leach admits the dire predictions of a huge odor problem were overstated. "During the summer of 1996, while we were constructing the slope, we conducted a lot of tours, and I never heard anyone say the odor was overpowering. I actually remember a number of comments like, 'Gee, the smell isn't as bad as I thought it would be.'"
Fumin' In L.A. And Olympia In the dry, desert regions of California and South America, a versatile and hardy species of the Yucca plant grows that not only controls odors, but is used in carbonated beverages, perfumes, cosmetics and cleaning agents. The Los Angeles County Sanitation Department (LACSD) swears by it. Wheatec Inc. of Wheaton, Ill., capitalizes on it. Taking an extract from the Yucca shidigera plant, the company manufactures a natural odor control agent that binds odors such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and similar compounds to neutralize them.
When New York City began diverting waste to landfills in neighboring states, the Puente Hills Landfill in Los Angeles County became the nation's largest solid waste landfill. Consequently, facility employees make conscientious efforts to reduce the odors associated with the 13,000 tons of waste delivered daily. With neighbors residing less than 4,000 feet from the 1,500-acre site, odor control is a top priority.
LACSD employees mix the agent with water and apply it daily to the landfill. "We spray it to the top of the daily cover to reduce odor and, then, sometimes, we spray a mist over the area of the landfill that's closest to neighbors to ensure odors don't travel," says a LACSD spokesperson.
Since this method doesn't require special equipment or misters, LACSD can incorporate it into a facility's existing water application regimen such as dust control or for moisture addition to windrow composting.
In Olympia, Wash., the Thurston County Department of Water and Waste was one of the first local governments in the area to construct and operate a Subtitle D landfill.
In the early 1990s, a yard waste composting facility also was established inside the landfill property. When neighbors living within a mile radius began complaining of odors, they mistakenly pointed fingers at the composting operation. "We had some leachate coming from the bottom of a windrow," recalls Robert Tiffany, business manager for Skagit Sand and Gravel in Mt. Vernon, Wash., which operates the publicly-owned disposal site.
County officials also approved the construction of a 50-foot-by-50-foot air table to push air through grinded compost via a system of nozzles in the floor. "Even on fresh materials, it blows air through the pile and knocks the smell out immediately," says Bill Townsend, a county engineer. "We run it 15 minutes on and five minutes off."
Another benefit of the air table is its homogenous effect on compost material. "Materials come in wet, dry and every which way. When you force the air through the waste, it balances the moisture content," Townsend adds.
Although odor was emanating from the compost facility, Skagit employees and county officials eventually ferreted out the primary odor source: landfill methane gas.
"We began applying [the odor control agent] to the working face, hoping it would cut down on odors, but without a collection system, the gas overwhelmed everything," Tiffany says.
Thurston County's odor control solution ended up being collaborative: Forgiving weather patterns, less grass waste, the installation of a gas collection system and temporary cover on a major portion of the landfill all played a role in reducing odor.
While solid waste experts agree that odor control agents work well, they assert that the products must be used in conjunction with the best management practices.
"The key to developing an odor control program is to look at the entire picture," advises Ralph Landano of AiReactor, Maspeth, N.Y. "Good house-keeping is critical."
For Taam and SRSWS, the focus of an effective odor abatement program must depend on the efficiency of the site's overall operation.
"We've come a long way and, currently, the regulatory agencies say we're using best management practices," says Taam. "But, we learned through trial and error that, for example, we needed a larger windrow turner and that the size of the windrow makes a major difference. [An odor control program] is the right thing to do and it's cost effective, but it takes time and effort."
So, you think you've got odor problems? There's plenty of stink to go around, and the solid waste industry cannot claim exclusivity in respect to odor nuisances.
It shouldn't surprise you that the same odor control agents you use to combat landfill stench are the same that a large, Midwestern metropolitan zoo employed to tackle the offensive smells emanating from its elephant house. Similarly, managers of chicken farms, onion processing plants and mortuaries each face unique challenges to make their products and workplaces user-friendly.
Take the poor Canadian trucker who transports 250 hogs simultaneously to slaughter houses: He cannot imagine his work environment without using an odor control misting system which he activates during his pork-packed journeys. "The effect of using this system was noticeable immediately," he says. "It greatly reduced the odor created by the hogs." As a result, he reports that complaints from passing motorists and pedestrians were eliminated.
The "fowl" stench of chicken fecal matter not only makes life miserable for chicken farmers, but takes a physical toll on the birds themselves, often rendering them sickly and less stout. Now, chicken growers are spraying the ingestible, USDAapproved product BraVo #1002 directly into the feed to reduce the feces smell.
The result? Plumper, healthier birds and less dependence on fans for air circulation.
In 1996, organizers of the Houston Livestock Show used a deodorizer called "Nok Out," manufactured by Amazing Concepts, Beaverton, Mich., to eliminate odors. "The stuff worked so well that [organizers] reported for the first time in years the smell of animal dung didn't have its usual affect on people passing through the gates," reported a Gannet News Service journalist.
The same product is used by morticians, exterminators, hotel housekeepers and hospital oncologists. Indeed, many mushroom composting facilities, sausage manufacturing plants and even the largest saloon and dance hall in Nebraska all incorporate some form of odor control abatement product in their maintenance programs.
Finally, in addition to the varied and diverse uses of odor control agents, it's also used in the aftermath of fatal human accidents and murders. "As we often say here, if Jeffrey Dahmer was an Ecolo customer, he'd still be in business," quipped Ian Howard of Toronto-based Ecolo Odor Control Systems, in reference to the stench of dead bodies which eventually tipped off authorities to the convicted mass murderer's heinous crimes.
"Don't get me wrong," he adds. "I'm quite happy he wasn't. We like business, but we don't exactly want mass murderers calling."
From Zero To 100 Tons In Four Weeks
Build it and they will come ... unprepared. While a material recovery facility (MRF) manager probably has toted along experience from another MRF, chances are, the interworkings of a MRF are new concepts to the rest of those involved.
Most likely, the maintenance staff has arrived from another manufacturing plant that uses equipment bearing little resemblance to MRF equipment. With luck, the crew will have solid hydraulic and electrical experience. The sorters and material handlers probably haven't a clue, and the baler operator may not know what a baler is, let alone how to avoid getting baled.
These are the folks who will have to take the new MRF from zero to 75 or 100 tons within four to six weeks.
"The training program is a key component of building and commissioning a MRF," says Melville, N.Y.-based RRT Systems' Engineering Manager Michael Jones, who has organized and carried out numerous training programs that get new plants up and running. "To pass the owner's acceptance test, we have to prove that the facility will do what we said it would do."
Thus, Jones must train the plant manager, maintenance crew, baler operators and material handlers. Fast. Over the years, RRT has developed a basic training process which Jones adapts to each new MRF the company commissions.
Training follows a strict schedule, according to Jones. First comes one to three days of classroom training. This depends upon plant size. For example, a small plant may need one day of classroom training, followed by four days of hands-on training, with more classroom work at the end of each hands-on day.
A new MRF usually introduces recycling to a community. Since few locally-hired sorters and equipment operators will understand the concept or know the equipment, classroom training begins with "Material Recovery 101." Everyone, except the management staff who has experience, attends these sessions. "We start by having the authority or municipality talk about the facility and the community's recycling goals," Jones says.
Next, trainers explain design drawings and plant layout to give employees a feel for how material will flow through the conveyors, shoots, magnets, air classifiers, eddy current separators and balers. "We spend a lot of time on nomenclature, defining the differences between PET, HDPE and other containers, showing the differences between the materials," Jones says. "For example, Heinz Catsup bottles look like HDPE, but they're vinyl."
Classroom discussions emphasize teamwork and cross training. On a paper-sorting line, for instance, a worker may miss a piece of corrugated and must call out for help down the line.
"We go over the control panel in detail," Jones says. "We talk about the lanyard stops and the emergency stops, when to use each and how to read the control panel to find out what's happening on different lines." Classroom training also covers operating and safety procedures, including personal protective equipment such as respirators, face masks and rubber-dipped leather gloves.
Unleashing The Students With barely a day to absorb the classroom information, hands-on training begins with the arrival of material to be processed, usually at some point during the second day. At start-up, the training staff fans out, taking up posts near the plant manager, maintenance manager, line supervisor, sorters and the baler operator.
The plant manager is up to speed, and the maintenance staff has plenty of back-up from the manufacturers and distributors, but the line supervisors, sorters and baler operators need close supervision during the initial stages. "There's a lot going on at this point," Jones says. "To run material, the sorters have to be trained. But you can't train the sorters before you run the material. It all has to happen at the same time. So it's a betwixt-and-between part of the process."
As the first material flows across the conveyors, sorters receive their hands-on introduction to sorting HDPE from PET from everything else. "We show them how to sort, how to work together, where the shoots are and what goes into each shoot," Jones says. "We also cover safety procedures again, making sure that everyone wears the proper protective equipment."
Although the magnets, air classifiers and eddy current separators operate autonomously and are self-cleaning, training specifies daily checks of this equipment. "You have to check the oil levels on the magnets daily," Jones explains. "It's also important to check the tracking of the belts on the magnet and the pulley alignments."
The eddy current separator also requires one or two daily checks to ensure that no metal has infiltrated the drum. Although the maintenance people check the drums, Jones believes the line supervisor needs to know how to do this as well.
The line supervisor also must learn to adjust the slide gates that direct the air flow on the air classification system. And, the plant manager, fore-person and line supervisors have to get comfortable with the control panel. The training staff goes over the start-up procedure by turning on the plant and initiating the flow of material. "Sometimes, we'll hit the emergency stop before they start up, to see if they can figure out why the lines won't run," he says.
Jones' trainers go over the equipment being controlled from the main panel, paying special attention to the lanyards that stop part of the line and to the emergency stops that shut the entire line down. Trainers spell out the layout of the control panel again, ensuring that everyone understands what the green, yellow and red lights mean.
Trainers work with material handlers on the floor. Their responsibilities include clean-up throughout the day and filling in on sorting lines whenever needed. At the baler, the operator has begun intensive training, which usually is provided by the manufacturer or distributor.
"When we buy a baler, we purchase a three-to-five-day training period," Jones says. "I also recommend sending baler operators to schools operated by the manufacturers. It may cost $1,500 for training, travel and personal expenses, but it's worth it."
"This equipment takes time to explain," says Randy Smith, General Kinematics field service manager who conducts training sessions both at its Barrington, Ill., plant and on-site. "In the recycling industry, we get a lot of inexperienced people, and we may have to cover the basics before moving on to operations."
"We give hands-on training at the time of installation which includes day-long sessions on hydraulics, electrical service, the operator control station, mechanics and preventive maintenance, says Lynda Kaperonis from Lindemann, Charlotte, N.C.
And, in addition to training during installation, Marathon Equipment Co., Vernon, Ala., offers three-day training schools annually at sites nationwide and overseas, reports the program's director, David McGee.
Free training seminars are provided for the customers of Harris Waste Management Group, Peachtree City, Ga., says Mac Hancock, service engineer "We cover the basics, including hydraulic principles and the components of the different machines. Then, we develop a hydraulic circuit that applies to whatever the course covers: balers or shears."
It's important for operators to know enough about the baler design to make simple adjustments on their own without calling maintenance. Jones gives hands-on baler training that includes the basics such as emergency shutdown procedures and daily maintenance tasks such as checking the fluid levels, limit switch settings and cleaning.
"Most balers are fully automatic," Jones says. "The operators' responsibility involves supervising the machine and making sure it's operating properly and efficiently."
A key area of baler training focuses on the wire-tie system. "The biggest problem with any baler is the wire-tie," Jones says. "You have to know how to release jams and keep the track clean. Usually, we'll arrange to have a representative from the wire-tie system vendor present during training to go over this with the operator."
Hands-on training also highlights unique operational aspects, such as what to do when medical wastes show up on the line. "OSHA guidelines cover medical wastes," he explains.
"The procedure is to shut down the line and call a supervisor who will bring a special tool kit designed for disposing of medical wastes. Then, you have to find out what truck brought these wastes to the plant to ensure that it won't happen again."
At the end of the first day, everyone returns to the classroom for questions, answers and a general review.
"Repetition is key," Jones says. "After the first day, we sum everything up, and the next day we do it all over again, this time using more material. By the third day, everyone is getting his or her job down.
"We're careful not to ramp up too fast, but we also focus on bringing the plant up to full capacity as quickly as possible," he continues. "It's never good to take it too slowly."
Waste-To-Energy Facility Training While MRF operators only have begun to systematize their training programs recently, for years, waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities have followed rigorous training regimens regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), OSHA as well as the operators themselves.
"We're subject to EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act and also to a number of OSHA regulations," reports Dennis Joseph, manager of training with Ogden Waste- To-Energy Inc., Huntsville, Ala.
Ogden operates 28 plants nationwide, and WTE personnel must take one or several mandatory courses, according to Joseph. Plant managers, chief engineers, chief facility operators, control room operators and shift supervisors must complete a Municipal Waste Combustor Operator Training Program, a 36-hour classroom course taught by EPA-certified instructors.
Also, every WTE plant must provide specific training to anyone whose responsibilities may affect combustion, such as mechanics, electricians, operators and plant managers.
This training is based on a manual, which the EPA requires each plant to develop, covering subjects identified by federal regulations such as permitting, combustion processes, continuous environmental monitoring systems, environmental operating instructions and handling fuel and ash.
"We provide this training in the classroom and out in the plant," Joseph says. "No specific testing is mandatory, but we require our people to pass a written test."
The EPA also requires two certifications for chief facility operators and shift supervisors. The first is a provisional certification, which requires passing a written test administered by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) which covers WTE facility theory, operation and design.
After six months, provisional certification expires, and operators and supervisors must pass an oral exam leading to operator certification, administered at the facility by a three member board consisting of:
* an ASME representative, who supervises the test;
* an industry representative who handles the technical examination; and
* a representative from the EPA or state environmental agency.
This exam requires demonstrating expertise in seven areas: refuse and ash, combustion, steam, environmental regulations, electricity, safety and administration.
Federal environmental law requires the states to adopt the federal certification program or to develop their own process. To date, only Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota and Virginia have developed their own requirements.
"If you go through a state program, you don't have to do the federal program, but you can't work outside the state," Joseph says. "However, the federal program is transferable."
In addition to regulatory-based training, Ogden has developed plant start-up and continuous training programs.
"Each of our plants has a training coordinator who is responsible for carrying out the training," Joseph explains.
Ogden's start-up training is computerized and constructed around 15 lessons. "[The course] requires at least 66 hours of classroom study, but if the material is new to the person, it might take twice as long," he says.
Joseph also has developed a training program called "Systems Training Enhancement Program" (STEP), which provides on-the-job instruction for new hires.
"New employees in existing plants have missed the start-up training," he says. "STEP brings them up to speed. It includes manuals covering six areas."
Whatever the facility, training necessarily becomes a whirlwind tour of operations. Many facilities, according to industry observers, don't train well, but as the programs developed by RRT and Ogden illustrate, systematic and professional training not only is possible, but is the only way to go from zero to 100 tons of processing as quickly as necessary.
Are you ready to begin training? Not if you haven't completed the following steps, according to Michael Jones of RRT, Melville, N.Y.:
1. Develop a plan for classroom and hands-on training in operations, safety, maintenance and management, including a schedule with real dates and times of day.
2. Set dates and times for material to arrive at the plant, moving up from five or 10 tons per day during the first few days.
3. Identify personnel and their positions including the plant manager, maintenance crew and sorting staff.
4. Circulate the training plan for the approval of the owner and management.
5. Schedule trainers. Jones schedules himself and several people from his engineering department and also arranges schedules for training by the equipment manufacturers.
6. Schedule the plant start-up to coincide with training. Material can't run through a plant without an operating baler, and a baler can't run without a trained operator.
7. Satisfy administrative requirements for start up by acquiring all operating and environmental permits and insurance policies, and by completing safety, fire, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections.
landfills: Statistical Analysis Saves Landfills Compliance Headaches
Whether it confirms that design and operational practices are preventing groundwater contamination or signals the need for corrective action, statistical analysis can help a landfill owner prevent costly remedial action.
Subtitle D regulations require solid waste landfill owners to statistically analyze the surrounding groundwater samples to determine if it has been contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or metals.
A statistical analysis of groundwater data gives a more accurate way to determine groundwater contamination. Not only can it show if the landfill - or another facility - is responsible, it also can provide warning of future impacts, which can be costly in terms of fines, litigation and remediation expenses.
In the past, contamination was determined by a governing agency who would use the laboratory chemical data to determine if VOC and metal concentrations were high or low. In some states, they were compared almost directly with a groundwater standard.
However, laboratory chemical data alone are insufficient to determine if the landfill has contaminated the groundwater. The groundwater beneath a landfill may contain one or more of the indicator chemicals due to natural occurrences or from other sources.
Statistical analysis compares laboratory data between up- and down-gradient wells and within a single monitor well over time. Only a statistically significant increase in the chemicals or metals detected in the laboratory chemical analyses indicates contamination.
To perform an analysis, all of the groundwater monitoring data from the inception of monitoring, including quality assurance and quality control data, are gathered and arranged chronologically.
Data from specific wells should be selected. These wells, chosen by a hydrogeologist familiar with the site's design and hydrogeology, should represent two primary areas: the up-gradient, or background areas, and the down-gradient, or compliance areas.
The wells' selection also may require input from the lead regulatory agency. The hydrogeologist will determine whether to compare data from up-gradient versus compliance wells or data over time from a single well -a decision that depends on the type and volume of monitoring data available at a specific site.
The data can be analyzed by one of two software programs created for landfills: GRITS STAT, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Chempoint and Chemstat, developed by Starpoint Software Inc., West Lafayette, Ind.
These programs create a table that shows contamination by specific chemicals at specific wells. The report can discuss the likely migration pathways and may predict the contamination's fate and potential impacts.
Most states require annual statistical analysis, but semiannual or quarterly monitoring is recommended. If no contamination is indicated, detection monitoring usually can continue. If contamination is noted, assessment monitoring may be required.
Assessment monitoring is three or four times more expensive than detection monitoring because of increased monitoring frequency and an expanded list of chemical parameters. Performing regular statistical analysis, however, may help avoid contamination and its costs, including future assessment monitoring.
If, for example, contamination appears imminent, the owner can install additional monitoring wells and increase the monitoring frequency in the "hot spot." Other operational changes can be considered, such as reducing the working face's size, controlling run-on water more closely or providing less permeable daily cover. Or, the owner might purchase additional buffer zones, which might be less expensive than assessment monitoring.
If the statistical analysis indicates that the landfill is contaminating the groundwater at the site, this may indicate that the liner system is not functioning properly. As a result, it may be necessary to change the design of future cells.
New Facility Americana Resource Technologies, Sterling, Colo., has opened a new integrated solid waste recycling, processing and composting facility in Lexington, Neb. The plant currently is operating at 110 tons per day and cost approximately $2 million (a capital cost of $18,000 per ton of capacity per day).
New Offices Environmental Resources Management, Exton, Pa., has opened a new office in Providence, R.I. Duane Wanty has been named its manager.
Golder Associates Inc., Atlanta, has opened a new office in Reno, Nev. Graeme Major has been named its manager.
waste-to-energy: Motors Turned On Savings At WTE Plant
How did RTC use VFD at its WTE to save $37,000?
Operators at the city of Fergus Falls' (Minn.) Regional Treatment Center (RTC), looking for ways to cut costs at its waste-to-energy (WTE) facility, installed variable frequency motor drives (VFD) in the plant's burners to adjust its fuel and air mixtures, maximizing burner and fuel efficiency.
Like many recycling facilities, RTC uses natural gas to supplement non-recyclable trash as a fuel source. Because different materials burn at different heat levels, RTC's biggest challenge was adjusting the fuel-air mixture accurately to maintain proper burner temperatures without wasting gas.
With the help of the Otter Tail Power Co., the city installed the VFDs and cut its electricity use by 534,360 kilowatts per year and natural gas requirements by 63.8 percent, saving Fergus Falls more than $37,000 in the first year. Additionally, maintenance costs were reduced, and overall system efficiency and quality improved. The change also knocked 7 percent off RTC's heating costs, benefiting taxpayers.
The city's burner contains a pair of primary combustion chambers, each with an attached secondary combustion chamber. Garbage travels through the burn chambers where it is dried and burned in the primary chamber. It then passes to the secondary chamber, where higher temperatures oxidize the remaining materials and gas.
Previously, pressurized draft fans supplied air flow to the chambers. Louvered inlet dampers, responding to changes in chamber temperatures, oxidize the remaining materials and gas.
Meters to plot the fan motors' minute-by-minute energy consumption revealed that the older louver system caused dramatic swings in electrical demand.
Fans ran 24 hours a day, even when the louvers were closed and additional air wasn't needed.
Engineers call this "deadheading": Fans run while the louvers are closed, wasting energy and creating damaging friction without moving any air. In addition, the fans caused vibrations that were wearing down the circuit boards and sensors of the louver control.
Otter Tail engineers estimated that by "deadheading" the primary and secondary fans on the burner units, RTC wasted 27.5 horsepower annually - costing more than $9,000 yearly in electricity.
The engineers recommended VFDs as a cost-effective and workable alternative. VFDs take alternating current (AC) and convert it to direct current (DC). The DC then is switched into AC wave form, enabling the drive to adjust motor speeds according to heat levels, eliminating the louver system.
The VFDs were installed and the louvers permanently opened. When operations were monitored, not only did electricity consumption drop more than expected, but other advantages appeared: chamber temperatures held, refuse burned more completely and maintenance costs decreased. In addition, total energy requirements and gas consumption were reduced.
Many of these additional savings flowed from replacing the louvers' slow mechanical adjustment. They had caused temperature vacillation, air leaks into the chamber when the louvers were closed and over-aeration of the fuel mixture. The thinned fuel mixture also wasted natural gas.
In addition to the $37,300 saved annually in energy costs, the power company included a rebate. The bottom line? Fergus Falls' VFD investment paid for itself in 32 days.
For more information on VFDs, contact your electric utility company's industrial marketing department.
Agreement USA Waste Services Inc., Houston, recently announced that a subsidiary, Empire Sanitary Landfill Inc., reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in which Empire will pay an $8 million fine for campaign finance offenses. However, the U.S. Attorney has advised USA Waste that since all actions to which this fine relates occurred prior to the landfill's acquisition, the company will not be implicated in any of these proceedings. In addition, the fine will not result in a current charge to the company's earnings, but will be included as part of Empire's purchase price.
Investment Rating As part of its ongoing rating program, Standard and Poor's has confirmed an "A" Rating for the Delaware Solid Waste Authority's (DSWA) Solid Waste System Revenue Bonds. In addition, DSWA has earned a rating outlook of "stable."
recycling: Shedding Light On Improper Lamp Disposal
Although mercury standards have long been a part of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the regulated community has only recently focused its attention on fluorescent light bulbs' disposal requirements in connection with those standards.
However, due primarily to its present initiative for energy conservation through energy-efficient lighting, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) has proposed softening these standards.
With the exception of residential hazardous waste generators, everyone - from the smallest business to the largest, including hospitals, malls and universities - must comply with both state and federal hazardous waste regulations. Under RCRA, all businesses disposing of fluorescent and HID lamps must determine if their lamps are hazardous waste by testing for mercury content using EPA's Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (costing approximately $150 per lamp) or using information from the bulb's manufacturer. Additionally, businesses can consult EPA's Analytical Results of Mercury Fluorescent Lamps.
Generally, the range of applicable regulations is tied to how much waste a generator produces. Large-quantity generators - those producing more than 1,000 kilograms (kg) per month - must comply with all RCRA provisions, such as record keeping, labeling and disposal time limits. Meanwhile, small-quantity generators also must comply, but can use simpler recordkeeping.
If generators are producing 100 kgs or less of hazardous waste per month, they may be "conditionally exempt" from some federal and state regulations. In this case, generators do not have to comply with RCRA's identification, storage, treatment and disposal regulations. Also, if fluorescent light bulbs are the only hazardous waste produced, a generator likely would be "conditionally exempt" if it disposes of fewer than 300 four-foot T12 fluorescent lamps or 400 four-foot T8 fluorescent lamps per month.
The exemption is determined by the amount of all hazardous waste generated, not just the light bulbs. In fact, the entire lamp's weight, not just the mercury, is included to calculate this quantity. However, even "conditionally exempt" small-quantity generators can be held responsible for Superfund liability for hazardous wastes disposal at a landfill which is later designated as a Superfund site.
Your company has options in dealing with fluorescent light bulbs waste. RCRA regulations allow both the disposal and/or recycling of fluorescent lamps. Each company must tailor its policy, weighing the disposal costs and liability risks. Disposal costs for fluorescent light bulbs can vary considerably depending on the quantity of waste generated, the disposal site's location, the proximity to a permitted hazardous waste landfill and state and local taxes.
Similarly, recycling costs typically are calculated by linear foot - the average cost being 10c. Some utilities, such as Arizona Public Service and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., have modified their rebate programs to include an allowance for lamps' proper disposal.
More utilities are expected to follow this route because of their potential to be implicated in Superfund liability.
For more information, contact Tricia A. Haught, Day, Berry & Howard, City Place One, Hartford, Conn. 06103. (860) 275-0536.
Plastics Recycling Grows, But Not Enough WASHINGTON, D.C. - Figures recently released by the American Plastics Council (APC), Washington, D.C., show that plastic bottle recovery increased from 1,272 million pounds in 1995 to 1,307 million pounds in 1996. PET and HDPE resins account for most of these pounds.
While encouraged by the numbers, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), Washington, D.C., says that the country could be recycling more. The APC report reveals that although 656 million pounds of HDPE was collected last year, current capacity can process almost twice as much. Greater PET recycling capacity also is available, even with the 631 million pounds of PET collected in 1996.
"Most plastic recyclers cannot get enough material to keep their plants running at capacity," says Gerry Claes, general manager of Graham Recycling Co., York, Penn. "A few years ago, the problem was finding end markets. Today, there is plenty of demand for recycled plastic, but not enough is being collected."
APR is urging more communities to collect plastic and those communities that currently are collecting plastic to expand their acceptable bottle menu.
For example, two-liter bottles have been a major source of recycled PET, but a wider variety of bottles now is available, such as single-serve juice and soft drink bottles as well as multi-serve juice bottles.
"Every one of these bottles can and should be recycled, " says APR Chairman Dennis Sabourin from Wellman Inc., Shrewsbury, N.J.
For more information, contact Robin Cotchan, Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers, 1801 K St., N.W., Suite 701-L, Washington, D.C. 20006. (202) 974-5419. Fax: (202) 296-7154.
City of Phoenix: From Losing To Winning
Since 1979, the city of Phoenix has used managed competition to determine who would provide solid waste collection services for bid areas within the city.
However, our department's early experience in competing against private companies weren't successful. After losing the first two bids, we started experimenting with equipment, routing and productivity standards to minimize equipment and personnel, and the next three bids were successful.
We boosted our competitive edge by:
* Specifying automated collection vehicles.
* Developing pre-and post-trip vehicle inspections to identify immediate and potential repairs that, when combined with a preventative maintenance program, would minimize expensive breakdowns.
* Creating time standards for designing routes, using a four-day, 10-hour work week schedule. With accurate route sizes, workloads were maximized, personnel minimized and efficiency maintained at competitive levels.
* Maintaining a high service level. While we knew that private companies were capable of bidding successfully against the city, we made certain that our service level was very high - a theory which was confirmed by high marks in resident surveys. A high level of service escalates the competition.
In addition to these operational improvements, we developed a formal training program for our new drivers with 80 hours of classroom and behind-the-wheel time, in which we cross train the drivers on automated side loaders, rear loaders used for quarterly non-contained/bulk goods collection, as well as articulated loaders used to load large piles into rear loaders.
We created a mandatory annual defensive driving class covering lockout, tag out and backing procedures, as well as operational concerns such as negotiating tight alleys. In 1994, we installed cameras in the automated side loader fleet which helped reduce backing accidents.
We compensate our drivers well: The starting hourly pay ranges from $12.25 to a maximum of $15.52, with full benefits which add approximately 34 percent in value. We offer an annual safety incentive pay of $400 ($100 can be earned each quarter) if the driver has no vehicular accidents or industrial injuries.
We recently developed an updated computer-generated program to track complaints and requests for service used by a central phone bank of solid waste personnel. In addition, e-mail and the city website increase our customer communication.
During the past few years, we standardized our fleet and thus, purchased from only one company. This year, we opened our specifications and tried different equipment brands that showed good test results and whose bid prices were substantially lower.
Most of our improvements have come from various sources. We encourage suggestions from our employees and use teams representing all levels to consider a new approach's feasibility. For example, one of our most innovative improvements is using reciprocal agreements with private companies and other cities to accept solid waste at each other's landfill or transfer facilities at a set monthly tonnage level. The arrangement required individual negotiations, but not direct costs. The savings have been substantial.
Quantitatively, success occurs when we win bids and continue to provide service at or below the amount we have committed. We also judge our success from the results of customer surveys and from their remarks at community meetings. We benchmark Phoenix's success by measuring it against cities that provide a similar level of service.
We will remain innovative in developing ways to do the job better, such as:
* monitoring operations for cost overruns;
* fine-tuning work standards, routing and equipment;
* exploring green waste programs using the current collection system;
* completing our curbside recycling program (currently at 70 percent implemented); and
* evaluating a weight-based or volume based fee program.
Most of the cities that have discussed managed competition with us would like to continue providing solid waste services. If they need help, there are enough cities that have competed successfully against private haulers to provide a foundation on how to submit a winning bid.
* 120 automated side loaders (ranging from 14 cubic yards to 31 cubic yards): pri-marily White cab and chassis, Heil 7000 body
* 28 Rear Loaders: 10 LaFrance cab and chassis, 18 White cab and chassis, 10 Heil 24-yard body, 18 Leach 24-yard body
Containers: 300-gallon containers for alley service, Heil, RMI 90-gallon containers for curbside collection: Roto, Otto, Heil and Toter
Customers: 305,000 residential
Employees: 165 equipment operators, 12 foremen, 2 superintendents
Service area:21/43 of the city
Services: Recycling, residential, uncontained/bulk trash collection is scheduled quarterly. Twice-a-week collection: 1 day for solid wastes, 1 day for recycling
Local tipping fees: $21.25
"Open Fields" Leads To Conviction
To paraphrase dramatist William Congreve, hell hath no fury as a consultant scorned.
Indeed, a spurned consultant can end up cozying up with one's adversary. Take the case of John Rapanos, a Michigan businessman whose conviction for illegally filling wetlands was upheld by a federal appeals court (U.S. v. Rapanos, No. 95-2169, 6th Circ., May 28, 1997).
Rapanos owns a 175-acre tract that he wanted to sell for development as a shopping mall. He spent more than $300,000 to clear trees and shrubs from the property and to fill in wetlands.
Rapanos' attorney submitted a development plan and a property survey to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR responded by notifying Rapanos that the property appeared to contain wetlands and, if so, he would need a permit before development could begin.
When two DNR officials showed up at the site, Rapanos and his attorney toured the property with them. After finding some wetlands on the property, the inspectors told Rapanos that he would need a permit, but that he first must submit a map showing the boundaries of wetland areas. Rapanos hired wetlands expert Glenn Goff to prepare the wetlands map, telling him to "get [the DNR] off my back." Goff spent several weeks gathering soil and plant samples and other information for the map.
When Goff reported his preliminary finding that the property contained nearly 50 acres of wetlands, Rapanos fired him and allegedly ordered him to destroy his study materials and preliminary report. Goff later testified that Rapanos became enraged and exclaimed that "he'd destroy all those [expletive deleted] wetlands." When DNR saw that Rapanos ignored official orders to stop grading and filling activities on the site, the agency decided to meet with him.
At the first meeting, five DNR officials met the defendant at the boundary of his property, hoping to find out enough about the site to determine how much of it could be classified as wetlands and how much unauthorized filling had occurred. However, the meeting ended when Rapanos refused to allow the DNR officials onto the property without a search warrant. A second meeting occurred about a week later at Rapanos' office, and he again denied official access to the site.
A few months later, a federal grand jury charged Rapanos with knowingly discharging pollutants into wetlands. At trial, both sides questioned witnesses during the government's case-in-chief about the defendant's refusal to allow the DNR officials onto his property without a search warrant. After three weeks of testimony, including detailed evidence about the nature of wetlands and the activities on the property, the jury found Rapanos guilty of wetlands degradation.
The district court judge, however, set aside the verdict and awarded the defendant a new trial. Judge Lawrence Zatkoff concluded that the jury may have been improperly influenced by the government's cross-examination of Rapanos, specifically the questions about whether the defendant was "practicing concealment" by refusing to consent to warrantless searches on his property by DNR officials.
On appeal by the government, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's ruling, reinstated the jury's verdict, and sent the case back to the district court for sentencing.
The appeals court ruled that, under the "open fields" doctrine, Rapanos had no constitutional right to prevent DNR representatives from coming onto his property for an inspection. Thus, "the entire premise for the district court's .... ruling is flawed," the opinion said.
The "open fields" doctrine stems from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Fourth Amendment refers only to "persons, houses, papers and effects." The high court has determined that society does not recognize an individual's subjective expectation of privacy in an open area. Moreover, the Supreme Court has made clear that trial courts should avoid a case-by-case approach in deciding if an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in particular open areas.
Thus, the existence of fences, locked gates and "No Trespassing" signs has no constitutional significance, the appeals court said. Nor does a landowner's presence at the time of a search or attempted search create a legitimate expectation of privacy, the court added.
"If a person [has no] reasonable expectation of privacy," the court said, "then the government's search of his property simply does not implicate the Fourth Amendment." As the DNR officials intended to do no more than visually inspect the Rapanos property, their warrantless entry onto open fields was not an unconstitutional search.
Keeping the inspectors off his property amounted to "no more than a protest against a common law trespass," the opinion said.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that it will not be reviewing this ruling.