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Articles from 1997 In April
Ash Use On The Rise In United States
European countries already have caught on to what the United States is just learning: ash from waste-to-energy (WTE) plants has many beneficial uses.
Germany, France, Denmark and the Netherlands use more than 60 percent of the coarse bottom ash generated by their WTE plants (see chart on page 18) in road base, highway sound barriers, embankments, parking lots, bicycle paths and concrete and asphalt products.
This country, on the other hand, makes far less use of its substantial ash resource. Currently, of the 7 million tons of ash produced from the 28 million metric tons of trash processed annually in U.S. WTE facilities, only 7 percent is used. The rest is landfilled.
"Burying WTE ash may be a major missed opportunity for effective waste management," said David Gatton, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' senior environmental advisor. He notes that project economics are generally more favorable in places that do not have a local aggregate source and for WTE plants that must pay offsite landfill costs because they do not have onsite disposal capability.
In addition to the extensive European experience in WTE ash use, numerous U.S. projects demonstrate excellent ash applications:
*American Ash Recycling Corporation (AAR), Jacksonville, Fla., built a 110-ton-per-hour ash recycling facility for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn. The AAR facility recovers nonferrous as well as ferrous metals from the ash and also processes previously generated ash reclaiming landfill space.
*In Rochester, Mass., the SEMASS Resource Recovery Facility manufactures an engineered, granular product produced from its facility's bottom ash. In 1994, it produced 29,000 metric tons of the product while recovering 3,600 metric tons of non-ferrous metals and 20,400 metric tons of ferrous metals.
*The city of Commerce, Calif., has been using ash from its WTE plant for five years. So far, more than 100,000 tons of ash has been used for road base at the landfill and more than 8,000 tons of ferrous metal has been recovered in the process. For the last two years, the city has not had to dispose of any ash.
*Wheelabrator Environmental Systems has developed and patented an ash stabilization process which it has marketed since 1987 and advertises as the most widely-used in the nation.
*Rolite Inc., Wayne, Pa., uses a cement-based stabilization process to turn combustion ash into small, ash-cement balls. The product has been evaluated for landfill use as daily cover, gas venting, drainage layers and for structural fill.
*Beneficial Ash Management of Morrisdale, Pa., uses ash from coal- fired power plants to create a cement-like material or grout for "capping" strip mine reclamation sites with impermeable barriers to prevent acid mine drainage. Now the company has established a sister company, Municipal Ash Management, to make similar grouts from WTE ash.
*The state of Florida has certified that bottom ash from Tampa's McKay Bay Refuse to Energy Facility is a suitable material for road construction, not subject to regulations for waste materials. The state also has approved a soil cement substitute made from ash from the Hillsborough County, Fla., WTE facility.
*The State University of New York at Stony Brook built a boathouse of hollow masonry blocks made from WTE ash and portland cement. Thorough testing found that the blocks did not release environmental contaminants and performed well structurally. The university and others also have demonstrated the suitability of ash products for artificial reefs or erosion control.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, Colo., a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, is co-sponsoring a series of five studies on WTE ash use. For example, in Laconia, N.H., bottom ash was substituted for rock in an asphalt mixture used to resurface a federal highway. A second study found no adverse environmental consequences of storing WTE ash in exposed piles prior to mixing with asphalt for paving the entrance to an industrial park in Elizabeth, N.J.
One of two NREL studies in Virginia will mix WTE ash with portland cement to build containers for "pop-up" railroad-crossing barriers. The other will examine the environmental consequences of using blocks made from ash and phosphate cement for revetment walls for beach erosion protection. Finally, the city of Honolulu is testing substitution of WTE ash for soil in landfill maintenance.
Public agencies, private firms and WTE plants can benefit from ash use. It pays off in many ways: saved landfill space, less expensive road construction material, reduced trucking of WTE ash or construction aggregate and enhanced recycling.
For more information, contact: Waste Management Program, NREL, 1617 Cole Blvd., Golden, Colo. 80401-3393. (303) 275-2915. Or, contact: The Integrated Waste Services Association at (202) 467-6240.
Fiscal The Allison Transmission Division of General Motors, Indianapolis, sold 123,000 medium- and heavy-duty automatic transmissions in 1996 which generated sales revenues of $918 million. Last year also saw an improvement in off-highway and military transmission shipment.
Grant The California Integrated Waste Management Board, Sacramento, has awarded $3 million in grants to 34 local governments to establish and expand programs to keep household hazardous wastes out of landfills. The grant will enable Californians' to remove 20 million lbs. already disposed.
New Agent Mid-Atlantic Plastic Systems Inc., Roselle, N.J., has been appointed the U.S. Agent for Julien Environmental Technology - a manufacturer of recycled plastic lumber molding machines and recycled plastic pallet molding machines.
New Facility Waste Control Specialists, Abilene, Texas, has opened a new hazardous waste facility in Andrews County, Texas.
New Office Environmental Risk Limited, Bloom-field, Conn., has opened a Southeast regional office. The address is 1132 Hemingway Ln., Roswell, Ga. 30075. (770) 643-6504. Fax: (770) 643-6507.
New System RRT Design & Construction Corp., Melville, N.Y., announces the construction of a municipal solid waste recycling processing system at the Sumter County Processing, Recycling and Composting Facility in Sumterville, Fla.
People American Disposal Services Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill., a regional, integrated, non-hazardous solid waste services company, has named Stephen P. Lavey as its vice president and chief financial officer. Larvey replaces Scott Flamm.
The Trucking Information Services Division of the Eaton Corp., Clemmons, N.C., has appointed two new sales managers: Jim Scales and David Rust.
Let The Conversation Flow
In perusing one of the many solid waste publications I am inundated with monthly, I came across an article on management that perked up my ears. The author suggested using your working time's monetary value - expressed in dollars per hour - as a benchmark as to how much time to devote to that person.
The concept seemed to suggest that the time spent in "accomplishing" something with a person who could net you more than your time costs was worthwhile, but that mere conversation was worthless.
Those are fighting words to someone like me, who enjoys reading, writing and talking. In my experience, I have picked up some of the most important - and, sometimes, lucrative - information from a casual comment in a conversation about another subject. Such comments are often prefaced by phrases such as "by the way," "did you hear what happened?" or "I was talking to so-and-so the other day . . . "
There are a plethora of gurus who claim to have discovered the key to management success, melting it down to a formula which controls every move you make. This usually has some simple rule which, like costing your time, seems logical. And, for each of these gurus, there is a competent - but obviously paranoid - manager who will try these ideas.
In this downsizing era, such paranoia is understandable. It makes sense to look for an edge that can safeguard your job. Unfortunately, there is no gimmick to success. I have attended seminars on effective management that touted the value of "getting the monkey off your back" or dividing things into squares or a list of other "magic" management formulas. In every case, they seemed to entail more effort than they were worth.
"Managing" something means to direct certain behavior toward a goal. Some people talk about managing time, like the author who suggested we convert our time into dollars. But time doesn't seem to react well to management, since it keeps on doing what it wants no matter how hard you try to change it.
Others talk about people management. By learning enough about human behavior, you can decipher how to influence most people. Learn as much as possible about them as individuals. Know where you want them to go and what you want them to do. Give them the information they need to understand the task and make sure they understand what they will gain. Supervise them and correct any inappropriate behavior or procedures.
If they still can't do the job, suggest they become management consultants. Like they say, if you can't do it, teach it!
The concept that people are sitting there, waiting for you to enlighten them may seem patronizing to some employees. After all, they know what they were hired for, right? Wrong. I have watched strong, intelligent men get pinned three times out of three falls by a heavy trash can.
Rookie collectors invariably will miss stops in unfamiliar terrain, even with detailed maps. But rookies are not the only ones who have bad habits. Complacent veterans get caught in messy accidents, too. A patient, knowledgeable, trainer who likes people is an asset no operation can be without.
Communication is the grease that allows the parts to work smoothly together. You never know when crucial information is about to be imparted or by whom.
Some of the most valuable information can come from unlikely sources, which suggests that you keep the lines of communication open, judge the communication's value as it is being given.
It also means you politely remind a less-interesting communicator that you have another call, or that your office is on fire - whatever works for you.
However, if you're enjoying the conversation, don't put a price tag on the time spent talking, enjoy it. Who knows, maybe you will hear something valuable. Or, maybe something you say will open up paths for the listener.
Don't assume, though, that the other person knows exactly what you mean. Differences in backgrounds and communication skills can create misunderstandings. And, the same word can be misconstrued due to emotion, education, culture and other factors. Therefore, terse oral or written communications don't always express what you intend.
This is not a suggestion that all communication has to be extensive, exhaustive or watertight, but if the recipient doesn't get the message, you are not communicating your ideas - or worse yet, you are communicating the wrong ideas. That is costly!
Send questions about your solid waste operations to Bill Knapp at 3336 Vista Ricosa, Escondido, Calif. 92029. (619) 741-5349. Fax: (619) 740-9177.
technology: A Window To The Future
The days of the MS DOS-based operating systems, on which most landfill and recycling scale-house applications presently run, are numbered.
Like it or not, the PC operating system of choice for the foreseeable future will be Microsoft Windows-based. Though the jury is still out between Windows 95 (and soon-to-be 97) and Windows NT, it doesn't really matter which one surfaces as the leader. The point is, software developers are writing their applications for both.
One reason why all the latest software products are being developed for Windows systems: Most new PCs are shipped with either Windows 95 or NT operating systems pre-installed. There is a message here, folks: If you want to take advantage of the best software applications and keep up with the incredibly fast pace of software evolution, your eggs better be in Mr. Gates' basket.
But do not feel as if a technological gun has been placed to your head. There are many good things to be gleaned from this investment in the future.
Almost from its inception, the solid waste industry has been driven by compliance requirements of some kind. Typically, this has been in the form of mandated reports by a local, state or federal entity, charged with being the watchdog over such matters. In fact, one of the initial benefits of computerized scale-house systems was automating the reporting process.
If you think MS DOS-based systems were helpful, wait until you see what you can derive from Windows-based applications. While DOS products use plain text and column reporting, Windows products use color, graphics and innovative forms of analysis and creative informational displays.
In many instances, Windows-based applications already may be in place in your operation - such as Excel or Lotus 1-2-3 - that are used for analysis and reporting. The problem is, they are probably re-entering the data produced from an MS DOS-based application, either from tickets or basic reports.
With a Windows-based scale-house application, the process can become automatic, thereby eliminating redundant tasks.
Here is another important factor to consider: Individuals currently receiving their initial computer training are, in most instances, getting it on a Windows-based operating system. A time will come, not too far in the future, where the labor pool of proficient MS DOS users will be slim. Technology evolves, and we evolve with it.
Remember LP albums, turntables, eight-track tapes and players? They were great in their day, but something happened. Technology evolved: Cassette tapes and compact and laser discs became the standard. Recording manufacturers shifted their products accordingly and, soon, no one offered your favorite artist's latest release in the old formats.
The computer software industry is in the midst of a similar technology shift. Don't put yourself in the position down the road of having just a bunch of golden oldies and no way to play the newest stuff.
Stocking Your Station
A productive transfer station design doesn't occur by accident. Careful strategies must be decided and business forecasts should be in place before operators review their equipment options.
No aspect of your operations is too basic to overlook. To start, you must know your facility's particulars. Transfer stations consist of two types:
*The open top system. Here, the waste is lifted from the tipping floor and dropped into a gondola-style transfer trailer. Some compaction occurs in the trailer as the operator uses the bucket to smash and level the waste for even loading and weight distribution. The loader operator's skill and the type of waste handled dictate the maximum weight loaded into the trailer. Often, this results in light transfer loads ranging between 18 and 22 tons. Here, waste is transferred by using either a bucket or clamshell loader.
*The compaction system. This system maximizes the weight transferred per load, since the waste is loaded into a compactor which compresses it into an enclosed trailer. Here, you have two choices: waste is compressed directly into a trailer or it is compacted into a separate chamber and extruded as a slug into the trailer. If you use the first method, the trailer must be structurally strong enough to withstand the compactor's force.
The trailer used with a pre compacted slug may be lighter, increasing the payload to as much as 35 tons per load. Since the waste is compacted into an attached chamber, it is possible to continue processing without the trailer present.
The selection of the type of transfer station operation seems to be largely a factor of geographic location. "Open top loading has been used more on the East Coast and Southern United States," explained Chris Brockway, project manager for Black and Veach, Overland Park, Kan.
"On the West Coast, there are more compactors due to the material's dryness. In areas like Florida, where it's relatively humid and the moisture content is high, it doesn't take much compaction in a trailer to get a maximum payload. However, farther West, it's dryer, and, therefore, the waste is less dense."
Other factors affecting the design - and ultimately the equipment type - include the:
*tons to be transferred;
*number of collection vehicles to be served;
*capital equipment budgets available;
*distances and geography of the route from the transfer station to the landfill site; and
*time it takes to load a trailer.
"Your throughput is a function of how quickly you can load and cycle trailers," Brockway said. "At some facilities, [it takes] somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes to cycle a trailer. A trailer load of 20 tons payload means about 80 tons per hour. Compactors vary by unit size; the old stationary compactors are up in the 70- to 80-ton-per-hour range, and the preload compactors have a maximum capacity of 125 tons per hour."
While most transfer stations are designed for current waste load configurations, experienced operators suggest that transfer stations should be designed for the higher capacity in the near future. For example, the South Utah Valley Solid Waste District's transfer station in Springville, Utah, experienced a dramatic increase in the waste generated due to population growth. In 1991, when the population was approximately 125,000 people, the transfer station anticipated the annual tonnage to be 75,000, said district manager Dale Stephenson. "That year, we did 82,000, and in our current fiscal year, it looks like we're going to finish somewhere between 110,000 and 115,000 tons processed. We've seen approximately a 40 percent increase in the six years we've been in operation."
While it is possible to design a simple transfer station in-house without technical help, use of engineering and design firms which have expertise in transfer station layout can avoid problems. Brockway suggested that the first step would be selecting an experienced consultant. While this may sound elementary, he explained, "there are people who claim that designing a transfer station isn't rocket science. That's true: It's not complex to design a transfer station, but the trick concerns all the little oddities that people never think about, and thus, end up making mistakes."
Also, make sure that your help consults with you during the process. "Engineers and consultants sometimes don't work with the facility operators," Brockway said. "Each transfer station depends on its operator's philosophy. Engineers should sit down with the operator and make sure that the operator is comfortable with the design that the engineer proposes."
Selecting Equipment Once the operating parameters have been determined, you can start identifying and developing the equipment specifications necessary for operation. The type of fixed and mobile equipment required must be considered during the overall design of the transfer facility to ensure proper orientations, physical arrangements and electrical and mechanical hook-ups. Generally, transfer station equipment can be boiled down into three functions:
*movement of the waste from the tipping floor;
*waste loading, placement, and compaction on the transfer vehicle; and
*the transfer vehicles.
Once the waste is delivered, it is dumped onto the tipping floor or pit area. Here, the primary equipment used include track or wheeled loaders, fixed or mobile clamshell hoist buckets or live floors. For smaller facilities, a tracked or wheeled loader, equipped with either a blade, bucket or integrated claw is useful. The wheeled loader can push material into either a drop pit, into an open-topped trailer or be used to feed a conveyor to a compactor.
The loader's additional benefit in facilities that do not use any compaction system is that it will help compress the waste by crushing it on the tipping floor prior to loading. When loading the transfer trailer, the bucket is used to level and pack waste into the trailer, increasing the payload.
Clamshell excavators also may be used to load waste into the transfer vehicle or compaction equipment. "The most common is the stationary clamshell which is bolted to the tipping floor, swings back and forth and compacts the load in the trailer," said Brockway.
"At larger transfer stations, you sometimes see mobile clamshells, which are rubber-tired excavators," he continued. "Their advantage is that if you have multiple hoppers, you can handle more than one with a single piece of equipment. It also gives the ability to bring in another piece of equipment if one goes down for maintenance. With the stationary unit, you don't have the ability to switch equipment easily. The downside of mobile units is that they're more expensive."
While live floors have been used primarily in material recovery facilities to move recyclables from the sorting line to the baler, their use is expanding to include moving waste from the tipping area to the open pit or compactor.
"[Live floors] can move as much garbage as a front end loader," said Don Hepperle of Keith Manufacturing, Madras, Ore. However, while it is possible to load transfer trailers with a front end loader in as little as two-and-a-half minutes, consistency is not possible.
On the other hand, live floors "don't have to depend on an operator to achieve consistency and the system can be automated. All the operators have to do is watch for the trailer to get full," he added.
Live floors can move a lot of material and can be sized according to the operation's flow needs. "We've moved 50 tons per hour or more," reported Russ Halvorsen of Hallco Manufacturing, Tillamook, Ore. "It just depends on your desired operation and floor size. We've built floors 20 feet wide and 100 feet long which will move at about 10 feet per minute, but most operations don't ever want to move that fast."
Scrutinizing Compactors While an open top loading system loads the waste directly into the trailer, compaction equipment increases the materials' density and the tons transported. Two types of systems are designed for transfer stations: the stationary and pre-load compactors.
With a stationary compactor, the waste is moved from the tipping floor into the unit, where it is compressed directly into the enclosed container or trailer. "The stationary compactor is basically a ram, and the actual compaction takes place inside the trailer," Brockway said. The pre-load compactor uses a separate chamber where the waste is compacted prior to loading.
Some of the pre-load compactors allow variable weights to be established to take advantage of local laws. "Certain states are more restrictive on their over-the-road legal hauling limits," said Gary McLeskey of SSI Shredding Systems, Wilsonville, Ore. McLeskey reported that a system with a variable density capability which can compress a bale can be helpful if a facility is loading compacted waste directly onto a rail car or if it is in a state which mandates a maximum of 80,000 pounds.
Another advantage is a reduction on trailer wear-and-tear. "You're not putting those impact loadings on the trailer's suspensions or on the trailer's live floor," said Kenny Japhet of Transpak, Salem, Ore. "[After compaction] when it's extruded into the trailer, there's no trailer damage and no wear within the trailer."
Whatever equipment you choose, don't underspec it, warned Christina Harris of Marathon Equipment, Vernon, Ala. "Also, the cycle time and machine capacity should exceed the estimated volume by 20 percent," she added.
Moving It Out Transfer vehicles are the final piece of major equipment to be considered. The particular trailer that is purchased will depend on the type of transfer station operation and on whether truck or rail will perform the transfer. For open top loading stations, transfer trailers which are designed to haul larger volumes of low density materials will be required. These trailers will be lightweight in order to maximize the payload.
For transfer stations which will be delivering waste by truck or rail, a solid, leak proof container should be purchased. If rail is used to transfer, then buy an intermodal container which meets all standards and can be handled by the rail system. If trucks are used, consider appropriate vehicle weights, dimensions and unloading characteristics.
While many transfer trailers use self-contained hydraulic lifts to raise the body for waste discharge, such trailers can roll-over because of the landfill's uneven ground. Also, if there is no self-contained unloading system in the trailer, such as a live floor, the site must have a mechanical tipper to unloaded the trailer.
Floor Care Transfer station floors are constructed with concrete of varying thickness and of either low, medium or high compressive strengths and with various additives. Since all concrete is brittle, it wears down and eventually must be repaired.
Floor failure occurs generally when the surface becomes worn down about two inches and the equipment starts getting snagged on the rebar in the concrete. Although the floor is an important part of operations, most facility owners and operators feel that this wear and tear is simply a cost of doing business.
The cost of the floor can be measured in the same way as other operating expenses, in cost per ton. "For a tipping floor processing from 800 to 1,000 tons a day, this cost can range from 8 to 12 cents per ton, or $23,000 to $43,000 per year," said Lee Smith of Master Builders, Cleveland.
An iron surface topping can be added to extend the floor's life. "The level of protection should be based on the size and scope of a facility's operation," said Smith. In addition, he suggests that you work with a specialty contractor with extensive experience in both the waste industry and with concrete surface preparation and bonding of specialty toppings.
Equipping a transfer station can be either simple or complex, depending on the amount of planning and design work accomplished prior to buying equipment. Understanding the entire waste transfer process and knowing the waste's destination is probably the most important aspect of the purchasing process.
"I often hear people say, I wish I knew about all this stuff before we designed our transfer station," said Brockway. "It's not the big items that really make a difference; it's the little things that come back to haunt you."
Court Finds Landfill Ordinance Legit
A county solid waste ordinance that is tougher than state waste disposal laws is not unconstitutional simply because officials relied on legal and engineering advice in drafting the measure and allegedly yielded to organized public opposition to a landfill expansion, according to a federal appeals court (WMX Technologies Inc., et al. v. Gasconade County, Mo., No. 96-1179, 8th Cir., January 27, 1997).
In 1990, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a permit to Kahle Landfill Inc. to operate a landfill on a 10-acre parcel in Gasconade County. Two years later, Waste Management of Missouri (WMM), a subsidiary of WMX Technologies Inc., Oak Brook, Ill., bought a 160-acre tract that included the Kahle site. The company is the only solid waste collector licensed by DNR to operate a landfill in Gasconade County.
As the landfill was nearing capacity, WMM applied for a DNR permit to expand its operations to an additional 51 acres within the 160-acre tract. Indeed, the company spent more than $3 million in planning the proposed expansion and seeking a new permit.
In 1993, DNR held public hearings on the proposed expansion where WMM presented evidence showing that the proposed site was well-suited for landfill use. Opponents, however, including Gasco-nade County residents, attended the hearings and expressed their strong disapproval.
Meanwhile, county officials began thinking about an ordinance of their own to control landfills. The county prosecuting attorney teamed up with a local civil engineer and gathered copies of ordinances and regulations from other Missouri counties. After conferring with the attorney and engineer, the county commissioners enacted a solid waste management ordinance on December 12, 1994.
Three days later, WMM filed suit in federal district court claiming that the ordinance was illegal under Missouri law and the U.S. Constitution. The suit alleged that the county ordinance violated the company's substantive due process rights and constituted an illegal bill of attainer.
The ordinance regulates and restricts the storing, collecting, transporting, processing and disposing of solid, liquid, hazardous and special wastes. Under the ordinance, a disposal site operator must apply to the county commissioners for a permit. Significantly, WMM never applied for a county permit.
Under Missouri law, DNR cannot issue a landfill permit without confirmation that the applicant and the proposed activity fully comply with all applicable "local zoning, building and health codes, ordinances and orders." In December 1995, DNR denied WMM's permit application, citing the company's failure to comply with the county's permit requirements.
The district court dismissed the company's substantive due process and bill of attainer claims, and declined to rule on the state law claims. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling.
WMM argued that the ordinance "on its face" violated the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In short, no circumstances could exist where the ordinance would be constitutional. Thus, the company had to prove that the ordinance is arbitrary, capricious and not rationally related to a legitimate public purpose.
WMM claimed that the ordinance was particularly objectionable and "truly irrational." It cited onerous height restrictions, financial guarantees and a 50-year post closure care period. In addition, the company argued that the county abdicated its legislative responsibility by relying on the advice of an attorney and engineer and by yielding to the "unreasoned fears of the electorate." For good measure, it also claimed that the ordinance violated state solid waste laws.
The appeals court, however, rejected the company's arguments on substantive due process. A "truly irrational" ordinance, the court said, would apply, for example, only to persons whose names begin with certain letters in the alphabet. As for the methods and motives for passing an ordinance, the appeals court said that due process "does not require a legislative body to perform any particular studies or ... analysis" to justify its decisions.
Moreover, the court continued, the actual purpose for enactment of an ordinance is irrelevant. "We ask only whether a conceivable rational relationship exists between the ordinance and legitimate government ends," the opinion said. "We find as a matter of law that such a relationship exists in this case ...."
Finally, the court ruled that the ordinance did not amount to an unconstitutional bill of attainer - a law that singles out an individual for legislatively prescribed punishment without a trial. So long as the ordinance is aimed at specific activities, it is legally irrelevant that only one or two entities will be affected, the appeals court said. Furthermore, WMM never proved that the commissioners intended to punish the company for any past wrongdoings.
legislation: New Legislation Offers Tax Incentive For Brownfields Cleanup
Littering the landscape across the United States are an estimated 500,000 acres of abandoned, idle or under-used industrial and commercial facilities or barren, urban tracts, where redevelopment is complicated by environmental contamination. Some of these sites, called "brownfields," are owned by bankrupt companies, while others are owned by local governments that foreclosed on real estate tax liens.
In a few cases, however, cleanup is underway due to government efforts since 1993 to reduce the legal risks for buyers. The Clinton Administration has touted the federal program as a key element of its economic and environmental policy.
"The brownfields initiative encourages businesses and communities to turn old polluted sites into homes for safe and sustainable businesses," the President said last year.
Under the program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., works out agreements with prospective buyers of contaminated property. In exchange for cleanup and purposeful reuse of the site, EPA promises to protect the purchasers from remediation liability. The agency also provides grants to local governments to help them assess the potential for restoration of brownfields sites.
For their part, nearly half the states have passed laws to encourage the redevelopment of polluted land by reducing cleanup requirements, granting waivers from liability, and offering tax incentives to buyers.
Nevertheless, no consensus exists on how "clean" a site should be before it may be reused or on how much liability should be erased. Although federal and state regulators concede that most of these properties never will be restored to pristine condition and that purchasers should not have to pay for prior owners' wrong doings, these officials still agonize about waiving liabilities and thereby losing a source of cleanup funds.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response Liability and Compensation Act of 1980 holds past and current owners and operators of contaminated property strictly liable for cleanup, without regard to fault.
However, the law gave EPA the authority to issue waivers of liability for innocent purchasers. The agency simply has been reluctant to do so. Government liability waivers do not protect new, innocent owners from suits by owners of adjacent property or by prior owners who have liability.
Developers and investors seem apprehensive to purchase brownfields. They see such projects essentially as real estate ventures with a disproportionately large environmental risk. However, the key questions are the same as in other development opportunities: Will the property have value? What will be the return? How soon will the return be realized?
For starters, dealing with government agencies is an obstacle. Many developers walk away from potentially profitable deals because they won't put up with the 12- to 18-month delays that inevitably precede actual beginning of work on the site.
Thus, some developers focus on the "low-hanging fruit" - sites where a lot of initial work is finished and where good records of such work exist. This approach reduces the amount of up-front money necessary to assess the venture's prospects.
In addition, some brownfields players believe that the marketplace for real estate transactions is essentially inefficient. They seek the establishment of a clearinghouse or trading area where federal, state and local funding is coordinated, where buyers and sellers can meet each other, and where innovative insurance and lending arrangements can be found.
Developers cannot ignore the community relations aspect of such large-scale projects: How receptive will the neighborhood be to development on a site that has not been rehabilitated fully? Some neighborhood groups have urged local officials to turn down redevelopment of a site in favor of converting the property into recreational open space.
Ultimately, however, the high-rollers will get most of the attention. Agency officials tend to return phone calls about a $50 million project more frequently than phone calls about a $50,000 gas station conversion.
Two Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have introduced a bill (H.R. 523) that would offer $2 billion in tax incentives for cleaning up brownfields sites and restoring them to productive use. The Brownfields Redevelopment Act of 1997 would provide a credit for clean-up of certain contaminated sites and would allow states and local governments to use the proceeds of tax-exempt redevelopment bonds to pay for the work.
The bill is similar to a tax-incentive bill (S. 235) introduced in January by Sen. Carole Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.). The Senate version has bipartisan support and is endorsed by the Clinton Administration.
Contracts New Mexico has awarded En-Core Systems, Grand Rapids, Mich., a contract to furnish the state with 10 portable scrap tire balers.
The city of Flagstaff, Ariz., has signed a contract with Norton Environmental, Independence, Ohio, for the construction and operation of a commingled material recovery facility that will process more than eighty tons per day of residential commingled recyclables and commercial waste.
Education Mack Trucks Inc., Allentown, Pa., and the Pennsylvania College of Technology offers an associate degree in diesel technology.
The Driving Power: Behind Waste-To-Energy
Is waste-to-energy (WTE) a viable and healthy part of the solid waste industry? Consider the following:
*WTE represents a $10 billion marketplace.
*Nearly 32 million tons of trash are used as fuel to generate the power for 1.2 million homes across the country.
*Currently, more than 40 million people in 32 states dispose of their trash at the 114 waste-to-energy plants nationwide.
*In 1996, more than 101,000 tons of refuse each day was being converted into energy as compared to slightly less than 97,000 tons per day (tpy) in 1995.
Municipal waste combustion (MWC) facilities include three basic technologies: mass burn, refuse-derived fuel (RDF) and modular plants (see chart). In every case, the processes recover the heat value of trash to generate steam for industrial customers or for electricity that is sold to the grid.
Mass burn facilities combust trash in furnaces that produce steam or electricity. Many of these plants have nearby material recovery facilities that separate and recycle trash.
RDF facilities remove recyclable or unburnable materials and shred or process the rest into a uniform fuel. RDF either can power a generating plant on site or it can be burned off site for energy. Modular facilities are similar to mass burn plants, but these smaller plants are prefabricated and can be assembled quickly where they are needed.
WTE Legislation While these facilities are cleaner, more efficient and safer than ever before, challenges remain. This year, the WTE industry will face promulgation and implementation of new emissions rules, congressional action on flow control legislation and restructuring of the nation's electric utility industry.
It's deja vu for an industry that has been working to set Clean Air Act standards for the past seven years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., promulgated maximum achievable technology (MACT) rules in 1995 for existing facilities and new source per- formance standards for new plants, only to see the standards vacated last year by a federal court following a lawsuit brought by two small facilities. EPA appealed, and states are awaiting a final decision in the case.
The U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided late last year that EPA inappropriately based standards on facilities' aggregate size and instead should have set rules based on unit size. The court ruled that to remedy the situation, all standards must be vacated and EPA must start the rulemaking process again.
EPA appealed, asking the court to change its remedy and keep largely intact the rules for the larger facilities, which impact more than 80 percent of the WTE's national capacity. The appeal now is pending, but EPA has stated that even a new rule might minimally impact the emission standards for large facilities and have no impact on the pollution control required for the larger units including those processing more than 250 tons a day. If the court agrees with EPA, large facilities must comply with MACT standards by 2000.
The compliance timetable will be different if the court maintains its original decision. EPA will need to create new MACT standards for large and small units - a process expected to take a year or more - and thereby delay the compliance schedule by two or three years.
Many modern existing facilities will meet these standards with relatively minor equipment additions. Other facilities will need significant retrofits, such as adding new scrubbers and particulate cleaning equipment. While minor changes may be accomplished soon, some of the more extensive retrofits will have up to three years to be completed after states adopt the federal rules or no later than five years after EPA releases standards.
EPA estimates a household might pay less than a nickel or up to as much as three dollars a month more for disposal at facilities that must add new equipment.
The rules, according to EPA, will yield about 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions, compared to a 1990 EPA source inventory, and 99 percent reduction in dioxin emissions. The WTE industry, taken as a whole, then will represent 3 percent of EPA's U.S. inventory for man-made mercury sources and less than 0.5 percent of all sources.
EPA also issued directives supporting the continued safe management and testing of residue produced in the WTE process. All WTE facilities have been testing ash under these rules for more than two years.
WTE combustion reduces trash volume by 90 percent and consistently results in a non-hazardous ash. Although the residue still weighs one-fourth to one-third as much as the trash processed, it can be used as aggregate material for road building and other construction.
In addition, ash can be an important component of a community's recycling effort, but it is not likely to be the only recycling taking place at WTE facilities. More than 850,000 tons of waste is recycled on-site at WTE plants, including glass, metals, paper, plastic, batteries, yard waste and white goods (see chart).
WTE facilities recycle nearly 740,000 tons of ferrous metal annually after combustion. In addition to on-site recycling, more than 75 percent of these facilities are in communities with off-site recycling programs.
Since 1980, the percentage of trash that is recycled has grown from 10 percent to a national average of 22 percent. Communities with WTE facilities recycle an average of 26 percent of their trash, up one percentage point from last year.
While local governments are considering the more concrete issue of ash use, federal and state governments are grappling with the murky issue of restructuring America's $250 billion electric utility industry.
The scope of the country's renewable energy marketplace - including WTE - may be determined during the next few years as the Congress and the state legislatures debate the current laws governing electricity generation, transmission and distribution.
Renewable energy comprises only 2.1 percent of the electricity generated in America, growing about 1 percent each year. Biomass is a large share of the renewable mix, contributing more than 75 percent to the renewable market or approximately 1.45 percent of total electric generation. WTE is about one quarter of that biomass market.
With such a small portion of the electricity market, you might think that renewable energy will receive only passing interest. However, as Congress begins restructuring the electricity marketplace, a growing number of members are focused in the renewable area.
WTE plays an important part in renewable energy development. Trash is both "sustainable" and "indigenous" - two basic criteria for establishing a renewable energy source. On average, it is more than 80 percent organic material, including paper, wood, food waste and plastic.
Non-combustibles comprise the remaining fraction. While household trash may not be 100 percent organic, each portion of the waste stream combines to make an excellent fuel for energy generation.
For example, the plastics commonly used in packaging can generate twice as much energy as Wyoming coal and almost as much energy as fuel oil, thus helping organic wastes to combust more completely.
Flow Control Electric utility restructurng legislation isn't the only bill impacting WTE facilities that is slated for debate this congressional session. Once again, Congress probably will consider local governments' ability to control trash flow within their borders. The flow control issue remains intertwined with the debate over an individual state's ability to stem the flow of interstate waste.
The Senate passed a broad flow control bill two years ago, but the House of Representatives failed to pass more narrow flow control legislation last year. Interested parties are cautiously optimistic that the Congress will succeed this year with a proposal that protects existing facilities harmed by the 1994 Supreme Court decision ruling flow control unconstitutional.
Some local communities, however, are currently structuring hauling and disposal contracts that direct waste to a specified facility. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that a town may require by contract that trash be disposed at a designated facility.
The appeals court ruling in SCC Corp. v. Smithtown struck down a New York town's flow control ordinance while upholding the town's right to enter into contracts with waste haulers as a "market participant," with the same rights, risks and potential damages as any individual who takes part in a particular marketplace.
Smithtown argued in its petition for review that impermissible barriers had not been erected to interstate commerce. Instead, the town claimed it used its police powers to eliminate the private market for solid waste service and provided those services itself through its contractors, as allowed under the commerce clause of the Constitution.
The decision in Smithtown remains a good law, at least in the Second Circuit, which includes New York, Connecticut and Vermont. Such innovative approaches to ensuring proper waste management options are under consideration in a variety of municipalities.
Health And Safety Plant operators also are looking at more innovative approaches to protect their employees' health and safety. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Washington, D.C., requires employees to report data related to accidents and other incidents. In this respect, WTE facilities compare favorably to similar waste and sanitary industries.
In 1996, the lost work day rate at WTE facilities was nearly half of the rate for similar industries. Accident rates within the industry also have been decreasing, with an average of 107 accidents resulting in lost work days in 1996 as compared to 169 such accidents in 1994.
In addition, several WTE companies are considering - or already are a member of - the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) administered by OSHA. VPP awards plants with outstanding worker health and safety programs.
By the year 2000, Americans will generate more than 218 million tons of trash yearly. EPA expects approximately one-third to be recycled or composted, leaving 150 million tons to be managed. A key element of the integrated waste management approach will continue to be waste-to-energy technology.
recycling: Postal Pilot Delivers Junk Mail To Recyclers
Recently, the U.S. Postal Service, Washington, D.C., chose Atlanta to launch a new "junk" mail recycling program. If successful, the program will act as a model for other states, such as Florida and California.
First, the Postal Service awarded Southeast Paper Recycling of Atlanta (SPR) a five-year contract to collect and recycle the city's undeliverable mail - such as newsletters, advertisements and magazines - that, unlike first class mail, are not forwarded with an address change.
The Gwinnett and Hapeville post offices collect this mail from approximately 200 post offices throughout Atlanta.
Postal employees separate the mail into two categories - slicks and magazines or news, envelopes and fliers - and deposit the material into separate 40-yard compactors, provided by SPR.
Once full, SPR hauls the compactors back to its facility to inspect the loads' quality, leaving empty compactors in their place. When SPR determines that it meets mill specifications, the slicks and magazines are sent to Augusta Newsprint, Augusta, Ga., and recycled into newsprint, while envelopes and newsletters are sent to Fort Howard, Savannah, Ga., and recycled into tissues and towels.
So far, 788 tons (1.8 million pounds) of paper have been recycled. SPR expects this number to rise to approximately 72,000 tons this year. By multiplying the tipping fee and the tons projected, the company estimates that the postal service will save approximately $150,000 a year. In addition, SPR projects the program will save more than 100,000 trees a year.
One stumbling block, though, has been correct material separation, especially for new employees. "The Postal Service needs to work on educating their employees," said SPR spokesperson Eddie Fernandez. "Once everyone is up to speed, the program probably will continue for years without interruption." To this end, SPR hired Roger Ashe to train the postal employees, which is expected to take three to six months.
Nationwide, in 1996, the Postal Service delivered 183 billion pieces of mail. Of that, approximately 71 billion pieces (39 percent) was "junk" mail. Although postal officials don't have a specific breakdown for mail in Atlanta, they expect it to reflect the national pattern.
In addition to its junk mail efforts, the Postal Service recycles wastepaper, cardboard, plastics, cans and other material. In fact, recycling of these products generated approximately $6.6 million in revenue for the agency last year.
MINNEAPOLIS - New research conflicts with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's conclusions that industrial non-hazardous waste landfills are adequately regulated.
Environmental Information (EI), Minneapolis, reported that in several states, landfill operators can avoid regulatory requirements, including covering liners, leachate collection and groundwater monitoring, through regulatory exclusions, grand fathering provisions and agency-granted variances.
Numerous states also have failed to impose financial assurance requirements on industrial non-hazardous waste landfill operators, creating the possibility of yet another publicly-funded cleanup program in the future, according to EI.
Even more disturbing is the report that few states require incoming shipments to be tested by these landfills to assure that neither hazardous wastes nor other, unapproved wastes are being delivered for disposal.
Twenty-four states, including California, Illinois, Michigan and Texas, could not even provide the number of industrial non-hazardous waste landfills operating within their borders.
While existing federal regulations prohibit these landfills from taking most hazardous waste, they still receive materials that contain toxic substances. And, under the Hazardous Waste Identification Rule, these landfills are likely to receive an even larger amount of contaminated wastes since the rule allows some RCRA hazardous wastes to be disposed of in non-hazardous waste facilities.
For more information, call (612) 831-2473 or contact EI customer service at (800) 593-6271.
Environmental Marketplace is the third in Environmental Information's series of environmental business reports designed for environmental business and policy specialists addressing the industrial nonhazardous waste sector. For more information, contact Environmental Information at (800) 593-6271.
trucks: Maintaining Your USTs
With a federal mandate to replace or upgrade existing underground storage tanks (UST) only two years away, managers of refuse/ recycling fleets are giving this area more attention.
Whether you choose to upgrade or replace, USTs must be maintained carefully. This maintenance revolves around certain areas where problems occur frequently. For example, the pump pit of a tank that has a submerged pumping system should be checked periodically for leakage. Over time, a tank moves relative to its piping, and threaded joints can loosen or fittings can crack.
The line leak detector on a sub-merged pumping systems also must be checked periodically to make sure it is working and activates when line pressure is lost. The problem of false signals on these units has been solved and should be used on all pressurized lines.
Check periodically to ensure that the impact/fire valve under the service pump of a submerged pumping system works properly and is not leaking. The shear section can be cracked by a minor collision with the service pump.
Signs of leakage in all visible piping connections for under and inside the base of the service pump should be inspected regularly.
The tank fill and gauge risers should be checked frequently to make sure they are not damaged or loose and that their caps are properly installed and have good seals. Anytime a tank has two or more openings at grade level and the openings are not tightly capped, surface water can enter the tank through one opening and "float" product out to the other(s).
Check the underground tank itself for evidence of water build-up. While water will accumulate normally and gradually in tanks due to condensation, any sudden or rapid increase in water level, especially if all caps are tight, indicates the system is no longer tight and may be leaking.
Dispose of the normal water build-up in tanks. Water does accumulate and can cause problem with corrosion and bacterial growth. Underground tank maintenance contractors generally have equipment to remove inaccessible water bottoms and any accumulated sludge.
If the storage tank contents normally are checked with the gauge stick, verify periodically that the tank bottom protector under the gauge opening is still in place. Repeated impact of a gauge stick on the tank's bottom can produce perforation.
If the tank and lines are equipped with cathodic protection, the proper operation of the system must be verified periodically to ensure that the necessary level of corrosion protection is being maintained.
Finally, a routine process must be developed of reconciling the amount of product in the tank with what should be in a tank. While leak detection is required by state and federal regulation, it also makes good business sense because this is the best method to determine if underground storage tanks are doing what they are supposed to do, and heading off problems before they become major.
Certification Smithers Quality Assessment Inc., a registrar based in Akron, Ohio, granted Alcoa Wheel Products International, Cleveland, QS 9000 certification after auditing its manufacturing process for forged aluminum wheels.
Contracts Alton Labs, Framingham, Mass., has won a bid with the United States Postal Service, Pittsburgh district, to manufacture 3,000, 100-percent recycled plastic chock blocks for its fleet vehicles.