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Articles from 1997 In May
Update: State Developments In LFG Recovery
Across the nation, states are considering utility restructuring to meet consumer demands.
For example, California adopted Assembly Bill 1890 in late 1996, allowing competition in the retail electric industry. Creating a $540 million fund to support renewable generating technologies, this bill allows owners of renewable fueled electric generating facilities to use up to 25 percent of a non-renewable fuel annually without losing their designation as renewable resources.
Retail competition also has begun in Massachusetts, and utilities from New Hampshire to Illinois have started experimental retail wheeling programs.Already, these programs have reduced electric costs.
The California Energy Commission is developing a plan where a maximum incentive payment of one and one-half cents per kilowatt hour would be used by existing biomass facilities to achieve a target price of five cents per kilowatt hour. To further encourage renewable fueled generation, AB 1890 gives customers immediate access to retail wheeling at least 50 percent of their electric load is obtained from renewable resources.
As the California example shows, there is continuing interest in renewable resources. Under deregulation, this interest will be balanced against competitive factors. Since renewable fuel generation must compete at market-based rates, the state of Illinois, for example, has required that utilities buy LFG power at pricess above avoided cost, giving them tax credits equal to payments above avoided cost for electricity purchased from LFG to electricity projects.
The landfill gas industry should take advantage of electric restructuring by working to influence energy policies such as:
* Retention of the June 1998 in-service date under Section 29 of the Internal Revenue Code.
* Grandfathering of existing powersale contracts in the event of a Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) repeal.
* Retention of the PURPA utility purchase obligation for renewable technologies.
* Provisions in federal law that allow the states to encourage renewable technologies through a variety of methods.
* Renewable power set aside under federal and state law.
* Early availability of retail wheeling for renewable fueled generation.
* Inclusion of LFG within the definition of biomass for purposes of all federal and state renewable energy programs Evanston, Ill.
The Rules Behind The Insurance Game
After years of being limited to the few insurers willing to assume the risk, solid waste managers now can choose from a diverse and competitive market.
In the past, insurers lumped solid waste managers into the same category as oil spillers and illegal waste dumpers. Now, insurers are realizing the distinctions between modern, well-engineered landfills and sanitation trucks and the riskier dumps and vehicles of past decades.
Environmental liability insurance policies for landfill owners and waste haulers range from comprehensive environmental coverage for current or newly-acquired facilities to catastrophic coverage at remediation sites.
Insurance experts advise solid waste managers to compare policies carefully prior to purchase. Unlike standard general liability or property insurance, environmental liability policies vary widely in form, premium and coverage amount, explained Chris Matern, principal of Chris Matern Consulting, Chicago.
The National Environmental Coverage Corporation (NECC), Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., encourages environmental liability insurance buyers to consider the following prior to purchase:
* Investigate everything available. Brokers should have access to a wide selection of underwriters. According to Sedgwick James Inc., a global insurance organization, three major insurers provide environmental coverage in the form of general liability, auto liability and workers' compensation. Another 20 companies write specialty policies.
* The policy should meet your contractual and professional needs. Have the broker review the policy with you so that you understand the coverage and exclusions.
* Select limits and deductibles you can live with in the event of a claim.
Determining The Right Policy A comprehensive general liability (CGL) policy protects from liability as a result of third-party bodily injury or damage. Typically, CGL policies feature standard language and follow a standard form.
According to Matern, the coverage availability under CGL depends on:
* the nature of the claim;
* the state(s) involved;
* the year the policy was issued;
* the dates relating to the environmental problem;
* the date of the occurrence;
* the date the occurrence affected the complainant (e.g., when the hazardous material reached the groundwater or complainant's property); and
* the date the complainant discovered the occurrence (e.g., when the claimant discovered that hazardous material had reached the groundwater or complainant's property).
An environmental impairment liability (EIL) policy is the traditional, site-specific legal liability policy. According to Sedgwick, it is "the grandfather of all environmental liability policies," because it typically covers bodily injury, property damage and legal expenses, and is claims-made. Locations must be scheduled for such policies.
For an additional premium, some insurers will add "first-party cleanup" for the insured property's remediation. Minimum retentions for this addition are $10,000, with premiums starting at $10,000, according to Sedgwick.
Both the EIL and the first-party cleanup provide coverage for pre-existing, but undetected, contamination or contamination that occurs during the policy period.
According to Sedgwick, new environmental insurance products include:
* Post-remediation coverage. Covers cleanup of property discovered to be contaminated after it has been remediated. Coverage is available up to $40 million; minimum premiums are $5,000; and minimum retentions are $25,000.
* Remediation "cost cap" insurance.Catastrophic protection of property undergoing remediation. Premiums and retentions vary.
* Closure coverage. Indemnifies the policyholder for costs related to an unexpected closure of a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act facility.
* Combined general/pollution liability. Limits are available up to $10 million, with retentions of $25,000.
* Combined automobile/pollution. Limits are available up to $10 million, with retentions of $2,500. Coverage for "ordinary" risks (such as workers' comp, umbrella liability, business automobile physical damage, and bonds - hauling performance, landfill closure and post-closure) are available.
Risky Business Since so many choices are available in commercial insurance, an increasing number of solid waste managers believe that self-insurance is too expensive. According to BestWeek, published by AM Best, Oldwick, N.J., costly site cleanup costs include three components:
* costs associated with remedial investigation and feasibility studies and any emergency removal required;
* capital costs related to the construction of the selected site remedy and initial cleanup; and
* operations and maintenance costs of monitoring and treating sites after initial cleanup.
Consider this example: A farmer filed a nuisance suit against a waste transporter, alleging that the odor of manure being transported to a landfill damaged the farmer's corn crop and made it unmarketable.
When the transporter sought coverage, it was denied. The transporter then brought a declaratory judgment action to establish his rights under his CGL and umbrella liability policy, which contained no pollution exclusion clause.
The court had to determine whether there had been an occurrence under the umbrella policy. The transporter's policy used the standard definition: "an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to conditions, which results in bodily injury or property damage neither expected or intended from the standpoint of the insured."
The court found that while the transporter knew that some of the manure was spilling out of his trucks, he did not release the manure intentionally. Therefore, the damage was not intended. The court also found that the transporter did not expect damage to occur.
Apparently, the farmer had not complained to the transporter prior to filing the suit against him; so the transporter did not have any reason to know that the corn was being damaged.
Ultimately, the court found for coverage under the transporter's umbrella policy, but not under his CGL.
Caution Is Not Enough For financial assurance, you should have some coverage for the risks inevitable to this industry. In addition to the unique waste-related liabilities, risks facing any vehicle owner also concern waste haulers.
Paul Moore, an engineer at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Washington, D.C., recommended that sanitation fleet owners take these additional precautions:
* implement rigorous driver training programs;
* require precise records that track each shipment; and
* display signs indicating which trucks or railroad cars are carrying hazardous wastes and the kind of wastes involved.
If you are thinking, "but these things couldn't happen to me. I know about everything that goes into my landfill," don't be so sure.
If you purchase contaminated property, you can be liable for thousands of dollars in cleanup costs even if you did not cause, contribute to, or know about the contamination (see "New Legislation Offers Tax Incentive For Brownfields Cleanup," World Wastes April 1997, page 12).
The new real estate transfer policy provides coverage for either third-party suits or cleanup expenses for contamination that was existing but undetected at the time of sale.
According to Sedgwick, limits of $40 million are available for real estate transfer coverage, with minimum retentions of $10,000 and minimum premiums of $5,000.
We all hope we never have to file a claim against our environmental liability coverage. In the event that you do have to work with your insurer during the claims handling process, Karen Sutherland, chair of the North-west Environmental Claims Association, Seattle, advised:
* Give notice of the claim as soon as possible. If you delay, and the insurer is prejudiced, your claim will likely be denied.
* Provide the insurer with all relevant documents and witness names as quickly as possible. According to Sutherland, the insurer will ask for all relevant information at some point, and providing it up front can speed the claims handling process.
* Give the insurer a policy copy. In some states, insurers are not required to retain policies over a specified number of years, so it is possible that the insurer no longer has a complete record.
* Have realistic expectations. "Do not expect your insurer to pay 100 percent of your damages if there are substantial legal or factual issues regarding coverage or regarding the existence of a lost policy," cautioned Sutherland.
Although only a small percentage of the solid waste tonnage, household hazardous waste (HHW) represents the majority of toxic components in the solid waste stream.
More than 1 million tons of HHW are disposed of annually across the country - an amount which demands some degree of management. Formerly, the only HHW programs were special collection events typically held one day each year at non-permanent sites. In recent years, however, an increasing number of permanent collection facilities have been established.
For example, Brown County, Wis., recently created a permanent indoor HHW collection and processing facility - the first in the state.
Since 1981, the county has hosted annual "clean sweep" events, collecting an average of 20,100 pounds of HHW per year, according to Dean Haen, a spokesperson for the Brown County Solid Waste Department. But that is only a fraction of the hazardous waste that actually is disposed.
In 1993, the waste department, with the assistance of the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, studied alternatives to the annual collection event that would increase citizen participation.
This would reduce the amount of landfilled HHW, thus lowering costs by reducing leachate toxicity and groundwater contamination. Also, reducing the amount of toxic chemicals entering the sewer system would improve the quality of the effluent discharged to the Fox River and safety conditions at the Green Bay treatment plant.
The alternatives considered included: multiple one-day collection events, a permanent collection facility and, a permanent collection facility with integrated satellite and/or mobile collection facilities.
In February 1996, the Brown County Solid Waste Board approved a $434,000 plan to build a permanent disposal facility adjacent to the existing Materials Recycling Facility in the village of Ashwaubenon. The site is operated year-round and will accept HHW two days a week during its first year.
The facility's designers, Robert E. Lee & Associates, Greenbay, Wis., toured several HHW facilities for ideas before construction. As a result, the 4,320-square-foot facility was completed at a lower cost than other facilities of similar size despite having to correct subgrade instability.
One design feature that lowered cost and improved safety was the elimination of the sumps normally constructed for spill containment. Instead, the floor was sloped to contain spills on the surface, making them immediately apparent and easier to clean.
The segregated flammable materials storage building also contributed to cost savings and improved safety. This 890-square-foot structure, built for handling and storing class lA and lB flammable liquids, was a result of a discussion between the engineers and the National Fire Protection Agency. By segregating this storage area, the need for deflagration (explosion) venting and a sprinkler system for fire suppression was eliminated.
And, in a move to promote efficient material flow, engineers designed the product exchange room, where usable products are given back to the public, adjacent to the receiving area.
The year-round permanent facility has reduced unit costs in other ways, too:
* permanent, trained staff eliminates the need for contracted services;
* set-up and take-down time is not necessary, as with the one-day events; and
* a permanent site provides a better opportunity for ongoing citizen education.
In less than two months of operation (When was this facility built?), the quantities received at the site already have surpassed the annual clean sweep totals. With storage capacity, on-site waste reduction practices can be used, including acid and base neutralization, material bulking and aerosol can decanting. The product exchange program also will reduce disposal costs, possibly by as much as 60 percent, according to Haen.
However, because HHW is exempt from hazwaste disposal regs, the program relies on voluntary participation. Education will be key to the program's success, since many people do not know of the potential danger in their household products or even that this facility exists. (Briefly describe the educational efforts.)
But the ultimate goal of education is to permanently change people's purchasing and disposal habits. Fortunately, over the past few years, the public has strongly supported these types of programs.
The Best way To Buy Fuel
What goes up, stays up, at least in the price of fuel for your vehicles. If the laws of gravity won't even help, then what will? First, you must know your options and the methods others have used to control this significant expense.
Practices vary fleet to fleet, depending on operation size, type and territory. Even though most waste trucks return to their facilities for fueling nightly, fleet managers still can cost effectively use outside fueling at distant ends of routes or at distant material recovery facilities.
Some companies' fuel purchases reach even farther. For example, Waste Management Inc., Oak Brook, Ill., discovered that purchasing fuel locally or regionally was too difficult, time-consuming and inefficient for its fleet of more than 17,000 which operate from approximately 500 locations. So, the company purchases nationally.
Dan Cowher, director of maintenance and purchasing for the Atlantic Group, Hampton, N.H., said his company established a National Purchasing Program in conjunction with Petroleum Source, an Atlanta-based fuel management company. "They have built a distribution network that provides the best price available and good, quick service," he said.
At the other end of the spectrum is Solag Disposal, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Although its sole facility has one 10,000-gallon tank, it takes two 7,600-gallon deliveries a week to keep the fleet moving. "We keep track of rack prices through a publication and work with one distributor at 'X' cents above that price," explained Cameron Spicer, operations manager. "We are not brand-specific, so this gives the dealer more flexibility, and he can take off a little more money per gallon." Still, they continue to shop around occasionally to ensure they are getting the best deal.
Performance commitments are as important as price when selecting a fuel supplier, stressed Pat Mulrooney, fleet maintenance manager of Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., Conshohocken, Pa. And although his vehicles are not used for waste transport, his procedure can be can be applied to the waste industry.
Philadelphia Newspaper's fleet consists of 354 vehicles and range from small, mid-size vans to Class 8 combination vehicles - 200 of which are gas- and diesel-powered step vans. The fleet racks up approximately 7.7 million miles per year and consumes approximately 925,000 gallons.
"In the early 1970s, we had been buying all our fuel from one of the major suppliers in the Philadelphia area," Mulrooney said. "Following the fuel crisis, we started making our purchases on the spot market, buying from different dealers based on current pricing. We spent a lot of time on the phone, comparing prices, ordering six or seven truckloads of diesel and four loads of gasoline a month. This consumed so much time that there were days I wondered if I had saved any money at all."
This period became a learning experience for Mulrooney, who realized that fuel suppliers varied in service and quality as well as price. Dealing with many suppliers presented new challenges - diesel fuel that was mistakenly dropped in gasoline storage tanks; fuel that had high water content and on one occasion, he received contaminated fuel - and he decided it was time to look for a more efficient fuel purchasing method and establish a more confident position on quality and service issues.
In the late 1980s, local fuel dealers approached Philadelphia Newspapers with an offer of a six- or 12- month fixed price contract. "We felt if we could negotiate a reasonable price with some performance commitments tied to service and quality, it would be beneficial," Mulrooney said.
Under these arrangements, determining price is fairly basic, he said. "Number 2 fuel oil is listed on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) but, low sulfur fuel oil is not. The dealer takes the current NYMEX price and adds a differential for low sulfur fuel, which is determined by averaging the difference between the published NYMEX price and the cost of low sulfur fuel over a period of time. Beyond that, the dealer adds a cost for profit and transportation from the rack to the delivery point."
A formal contract is drawn up, specifying price, quality and service arrangements over an agreed time period, which is typically six or 12 months, Mulrooney said.
However, he warned, this type arrangement won't work for everyone. "The contract will lock you into purchasing a specific amount over a particular period," he said. "For us, this was usually in excess of 42,000 gallons per month. If your operation consistently uses fuel in excess of the contractual amount, you may want to further explore this option. This is definitely a calculated risk, and you will not always be the winner."
Timing also is a factor, he continued. Fuel oil price historically has been lowest from April to August when demand is low and supplies are higher. However, other factors affect price, such as political unrest in the Middle East, a catastrophic event at a refinery complex or the economy.
"Gasoline also is available under similar arrangements," he said. "We try to lock in on gasoline in late fall or early spring, since this product's cost tends to escalate the closer we get to summer."
Philadelphia Newspapers has been fortunate in its experience with firm price contracts. "I'm not going to tell you that we've always paid less than the current rates," Mulrooney said, "but when we've paid over the current rates, the difference was tolerable. As long as we are even or lower than current pricing, we're ahead of the game. On the other hand, we have experienced periods when we were paying more than current prices. Don't judge your success by two or three month periods, but look at the big picture."
So, what does Mulrooney currently pay for fuel? Pennsylvania requires an addition of 0.4675 to the diesel fuel price - currently 0.628 - which equals $1.0955. Gasoline's 0.4075 tax is added to Philadelphia News-papers' current contract price of 0.573 for a total of 0.9805 cents per gallon.
Another Fleet's Approach In the Midwest, one fleet took a different approach to controlling fuel purchasing costs problems: It gave up on-site storage and fueling.
Its trucks purchase all their fuel from an unmanned fuel stop. The company it uses has 10 sites in the Milwaukee area, one 100 miles west and one 100 miles north. They also have sites in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Georgia - a scope that covers the fleet's operating area.
The company's fleet manager said they can negotiate and lock in their price for one or more months. They pay for the fuel as they use it, and have no equipment to maintain or tanks to monitor.
Each driver has his own fuel card and pin number. When fueling, he enters the truck number, odometer reading and pin number. The company then receives a computer printout of the transactions. It also can access all transactions daily via computer.
A Proactive Program Roberson Transportation Services, Farmer City, Ill., a nationwide linehaul business that offers specialized carrier services, purchases fuel for a fleet of more than 1,000 units.
"Our fleet consists of Freightliner/ Cummins-powered trucks, with an expected fuel range of approximately 1,200 miles," said fuel purchasing manager Craig W. Hanlin. "We use QualComm communication equipment and NTS/EDS card services."
Although Roberson's fueling is mainly over-the-road, Hanlin believes that fuel purchasing must be a proactive program where every person is accountable and where fuel management starts with intent to purchase and ends following combustion.
"To determine the prices we should be paying, we analyze all factors involved, including political, seasonal, supply and demand, and then use available publications with appropriate information," he said. "Then, we decide where to buy fuel, how it gets in the truck, what pricing structure is acceptable and benchmark our position to the industry."
He cites four roles that are essential for this strategy: drivers, maintenance, operations and executive staff.
"Education is a factor," he continued. "Ours is two-pronged. First, we provide driver training on how to operate the equipment most effectively, because the drivers affect equipment, miles-per-gallon (MPG) and strategy. Second, we have a professional in-house MPG training specialist, a 17-year veteran who facilitates all the issues surrounding fuel economy.
"The program includes specing the vehicle appropriately and performing preventive maintenance that insures the equipment operates to potential," he said.
Roberson also publishes a fueling guide to ensure controls, coordinate responsibilities, monitor results, re-evaluate strategy and adapt and modify when necessary.
Roberson's fuel purchasing program has improved MPG by five percent.
Advice From The Trenches "Old methods included buy-when-needed, obtaining daily quotes and getting discounts from the posted price," said Roger N. Simons of Simons Petroleum, Oklahoma City.
"The advantages of these methods were the ability to obtain a low delivery price and more personalized service," he said. "On the other hand, there were many disadvantages, such as being a price 'taker' at today's market, limited purchasing power, lack of accounting uniformity, lack of data capture uniformity, over-paying taxes and administrative expense."
Pricing is the main factor. Strategies depend on having closed networks for specific gallons, using cost plus instead of cents off, indexing at terminals, comparing "apples-to-apples" facility quality and comparing on a pre-tax basis.
No matter what strategy you decide upon, the focus remains the same. "Management must make a plan, commit to an overall, centralized strategy and determine persons responsible for carrying it out," Simons said.
How To Sell LFG In A Changing Market
If you think landfill gas (LFG) was up in the air before, just wait until you see what the federal and state legislators and public utility commissioners have in mind.
Any change in the electric industry will affect the future markets for LFG. For example, if customers can choose their electric suppliers, retail wheeling will be a key feature, opening new markets by allowing electricity to be sold directly to a consumer. Retail wheeling also will allow use of landfill generated electricity at other locations.
The power marketer, working between the generator and consumer, will be another potential LFG-generated electricity buyer. Power marketers buy electricity from a variety of sources and already operate on a limited basis.
The marketers' job includes matching the customer's load with generating output and providing backup power. And, unlike many utilities, marketers, may seek out renewable resources.
Operating in excess of 90 percent capacity should give LFG a competitive advantage over other renewables, such as windpower and hydropower.
Industry changes also may pose risks to existing LFG-fueled facilities. As competition increases, utilities will continue trying to repeal the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) contracts. So far, they have threatened to condemn high-priced facilities, or file for bankruptcy to reduce payments.
Federal Legislation In 1996, Congress extended two important deadlines for projects seeking tax credits. The original deadlines included contracting the facility's construction by the end of 1995 and requiring it to be in service by the end of 1996. Now, these facilities must be operational by June 30, 1998.
However, early this year, President Clinton's proposed budget included a new deadline of June 30, 1997. So, pay close attention to the budget discussions if you are considering a new project.
Despite the deferred service date, the ultimate tax credit expiration dates remain the same:
* Gas production facilities placed in service after 1992 have until December 31, 2007.
* Credits for facilities placed in service between 1980 and 1992 expire on December 31, 2002.
Section 210 of PURPA, which requires utilities to buy LFG generated electricity, has been critical because it provides a guaranteed market. Electric utilities are required to buy the electricity at avoided cost, which is the cost if it had generated the same quantity of electricity or had purchased it. Federal legislation proposed in 1996 and 1997 would eliminate this obligation.
PURPA's modification has been part of restructuring proposals that would open retail electric markets to competition. Typically, these proposals would allow a customer to purchase electricity from a supplier of choice and would give retail customers access to wheeling or transmission service from electric utilities. Currently, a retail electric customer purchases power from a local utility at rates based on the utility's costs to generate and deliver the electricity.
In the future, utilities probably won't have to purchase LFG electricity at avoided cost, placing the generators in competition with other electricity suppliers. However, access to retail wheeling also would increase LFG opportunities through the sale of electricity directly to retail customers. Alternatively, landfill owners could use the electricity generated at other locations.
Independent power industry representatives also are questioning pre-existing utility contracts. Currently, it appears that changes in PURPA will not affect existing contracts, but PURPA's utility purchase obligation may not be available in the future. This adds pressure to complete LFG projects and sign utility power sale contracts as soon as possible. A deadline for grandfathered PURPA contracts hasn't been established.
FERC Rulings In April 1996, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Washington, D.C., ruled on the wholesale transmission or wheeling of electric power. This effectively turns electric utilities into common carriers and requires them to file tariffs, describing how utilities will wheel electricity to wholesale customers.
FERC also ordered qualifying LFG facilities to limit their natural gas use to twenty-five percent of annual fuel input and to certain purposes. The FERC ruled on a case that involved a facility that had overestimated its gas production in the planning stages and now was oversized for its gas quantity.
While the owner wanted to use natural gas to run the plant at full capacity while remaining within PURPA's 25 percent limitation, FERC ruled that natural gas cannot be used for this purpose.
However, FERC stated that natural gas can be burned to keep a facility operating at a normal level if LFG is temporarily unavailable, such as when the gas collection system is out or when changes in atmospheric pressure cause reduced LFG production. Therefore, any proposed use of natural gas should be evaluated carefully to ensure that PURPA is not violated.
Renewable Energy Decisions Federal legislators also are focusing on renewable energy. For example, Representative Dan Schaefer's (R-Colo.) 1996 bill required that all electric generators use a minimum amount of renewable energy and establish a system of renewable energy credits.
As a result, these generators might add LFG to their fuel or purchase it to meet the federal requirements.
And, although a 1997 bill introduced by Senator Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) requires that electric generators include a minimum of 5 percent renewable power in their generation mix, the bill excludes LFG from its definition of "renewable resources."
In July 1995, the Department of Energy, Washington, D.C., issued its final rule, implementing the Renewable Energy Production Incentive (REPI). REPI, which was adopted as part of 1992's Energy Policy Act, will offer payments of one-and-one-half cents per kilowatt hour to a state or political state subdivision or to a non-profit cooperative for electricity generated using certain renewable technologies.
The payment level is indexed to inflation from a 1993 base year. An electricity sale is required, and the generating facility must be owned by or for the benefit of the entity receiving the REPI payment.
The generating facility must begin operation between 1993 and 2003 and payments are available for 10 years.
Approximately $3.4 million were available for fiscal 1995 - a figure that increased to $5.2 million for fiscal 1996. REPI will expire in 2013.
REPI identified LFG as a secondtier technology that would receive money only after payment is made to all eligible applicants.
However, the LFG track record is encouraging: In fiscal year 1995, individual payments as high as $946,000 were made to five LFG-fueled generating facilities.
Because it must be funded annually, REPI cannot be considered when evaluating project economies, but it can make an attractive supplement to project revenues.
Nestled in the foothills of Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains, Habersham County is a picturesque community that plays host on the weekends to whitewater thrill seekers and fly fishermen.
With a population of 30,000 and an average waste generation rate of 80 tons per day, Habersham County surprised many of its peers with its leap into a Subtitle D landfill in 1993. While local officials met the permitting process and construction of the facility with relative ease, leachate generation rates and potency soon began to plague the 33-acre landfill once it became operational.
"After hauling leachate to the local wastewater treatment plant for six months, our leachate parameters exceeded the plant's standards," recalled Stanley Duckett, the landfill supervisor. "When we were forced to haul leachate one hundred miles one way to a private treatment facility, we knew we had to do something."
Duckett sought relief in a reverse osmosis treatment system manufactured by Rochem Separation Systems, Torrence, Calif. (see photograph on page 76). "Rochem agreed to perform a pilot program and clean 100,000 gallons of leachate," he said. "But, we had difficulty getting the state regulators to work with us because they'd never heard of the system."
Although Duckett and his staff were returning the leachate to drinking water standards, regulators with the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources continued to insist that the refined liquid be disposed of at a wastewater treatment facility.
"We were doing lab work every day to compile a history of the system to gain state approval to do something different with our leachate," Duckett said. "We eventually petitioned the state to use the purified leachate for irrigation and dust control inside the monitored areas of the landfill. Within 10 to 12 months, the state finally gave us its blessing."
The technology employs a series of sand and cartridge filters to cleanse the leachate before routing it to four modules consisting of 165 membranes powered with 900 pounds of pressure. To adjust pH levels, the leachate is processed through a lime filter and then a carbon filter which "polishes" the water.
Once the leachate reaches drinking water standards, it is diverted to a 90,000-gallon synthetically lined pond. The entire system sits in a 12-foot by 16-foot building near the landfill's 270,000-gallon leachate storage tank.
System maintenance is a must, but it is easy to achieve since all filters and membranes are computer activated. "We clean the membranes every four or five days with special soaps that protect them," Duckett said. "Cartridge filters are replaced daily, and the entire system will automatically shut down if they become clogged."
Reluctant to share costs since Habersham County began as a pilot program, Duckett said the price of replacing filters and cartridges is insignificant when comparing it to a 200-mile round trip hauling bill.
Pick Your Poison Not only are pretreatment systems available for leachate, but they can be fueled by other potential landfill nuisances like methane gas.
Organic Waste Technologies Inc. (OWT), Fairport, N.Y., developed a leachate evaporation system (LES) that uses landfill gas to heat and vaporize leachate. "LES and its sister technology, Technair, remove water by humidifying gas brought into direct contact with leachate," said Barry Rogers, OWT's manager of energy recovery. "LES employs hot combustion gas for heat and mass transfer, while Technair evaporators use air that has been heated by a landfill gas burner."
When leachate transportation and disposal costs began to impact the Orchard Hills Landfill in Watervliet, Mich., in 1992, company officials began weighing their options. Since the landfill's methane gas was treated within an enclosed flare, LES was a good alternative.
"The primary criteria is financial," Rogers said. "Certain landfills produce a lot of leachate, but their disposal costs may be low. In that case, when you're talking capital costs of more than $499,000, it may not be financially worth it to invest in a system."
However, considering Orchard Hill's leachate disposal costs of 11 cents per gallon plus a 40-mile transportation expense, an evaporation system made sense. Today, the landfill evaporates an average of 6,000 gallons per day of untreated leachate which requires one hour of labor.
"Tax credits play a very important role," Rogers emphasized, referring to the program established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. "We set ourselves up as a [gas] treatment company or a leachate company. We own and operate the equipment, and provide the landfill with leachate evaporation services. The landfill is the gas company. We buy the gas to fuel the equipment, and the landfill qualifies for tax credits which are worth as much as a four-cent-per-gallon reduction in leachate treatment costs."
Osmotek Inc., Corvallis, Ore., offers landfill managers a direct osmosis concentration system to treat leachate which results in the removal of at least 95 percent of water. Robert Salter, president of Osmotek, said the process was originally rooted in the food processing industry as a liquid separation technology. When a landfill operator approached him about the feasibility of treating leachate with the same process, a series of studies indicated it was a good opportunity.
"Our technology is driven by osmotic pressure differential," Salter said. "It uses a microporous membrane that separates a feed stream, or leachate, from a brine solution."
The brine solution prevents membranes from becoming "fouled" and is capable of reducing leachate volumes by 20 times or more. Although the technology hasn't been implemented in a full-size landfill, pilot programs are ongoing in the Corvallis community, and Rogers is confident increasingly stringent wastewater disposal regulations will eventually mandate some form of pre-treatment at most landfills.
Integrated Leachate Management What began as a single-faceted leachate management approach for Steve Wolfe at the Kootenai County Landfill, 13.3 miles south of Couer d'Alene, Idaho, evolved into a multi-faceted integrated discipline. The solid waste director oversees activities at the state's first fully-lined landfill.
The ornery Pacific Northwest weather, coupled with Wolfe's willingness to experiment has resulted in an ecological collection of native trees, grasses and cattail ponds sustained by the landfill's leachate.
Working with Dwight Miller, waste containment division manager for Parametrix Inc., Kirkland, Wash., Wolfe developed a fully-integrated leachate management system that emphasizes internal and external leachate reduction.
"We initially spent money for a permanent system that allowed us to pull high-strength leachate from ponds and return it to the landfill," Wolfe said. "We've gone through extreme weather in the Northwest for the last three years, and we soon realized a single-faceted approach wasn't going to solve our leachate problems."
Because the leachate lagoon aerators were undersized, leachate turned septic and began causing odor problems. Attempts to combat the problem with nitrogen and the addition of activated sludge from the community's wastewater treatment facility failed.
"Once we started looking at the numbers, we realized our CODs were extremely high, and the bugs couldn't compete," Wolfe said. "Everything was out of whack. So we came in with 50 percent hydrogen peroxide, and the leachate went from extremely black to a tannish color."
Wolfe and his staff enhanced their re-injection process with lined outside slopes to minimize leachate production and increased lagoon aerators from five to seven horsepower.
An elaborate irrigation system came next which provided more flexibility in the landfill's recirculation system and added a new dimension to the landfill's appearance. "We installed four to five feet of clay material [as intermediate cover] across a half acre of landfill, sealed off the gas and designated an area for Poplar trees which have a high affinity for water," Wolfe explained. "When we return to that area of the landfill in three or four years, we'll remove them."
Initially, Wolfe said he was skeptical whether the trees would thrive on leachate. "We had such high BODs and CODs that I thought, 'Geez, nothing can grow in this stuff.' But, they've done well."
Wolfe's attempts at growing canary grass haven't been as successful due to the leachate's high organic blend. "The grass seed molded and rotted before it had a chance to sprout," he said. "It'll take more nurturing to get it to grow, not like the trees that are pretty withstanding."
As the landfill developed, so did the need for additional leachate overflow capacity. A quarter-acre claylined pond was constructed, and cattails seeds and plants were added.
Although the solid waste industry views these practices as cutting-edge, most pre-treatment leachate methods are old hat to other industries, according to Miller.
"We're just like a factory, trying to reduce wastewater," he said. "If you're not looking at all your options, you're paying more than you should. You're failing your facility and the rate payers, who want the most competitive rates."
Update: Retread Ahead
PACIFIC GROVE,CALIF. - Approximately 31.4 million retreaded tires were sold in North America in 1996, with sales totaling approximately two billion dollars, according to the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIBE). Of the 31.4 million re-treaded tires, 4.6 million were sold for passenger cars, 7.7 million for light trucks, 18.1 million for medium and heavy trucks and 980 thousand for other vehicles (aircraft, off-the-road vehicles, industrial/lift trucks, motorcycles and farm equipment). Overall, 630 million pounds of tread rubber was used by the North American retread tire industry in 1996.
There are approximately 1,440 retreading plants in North America, of which approximately 90 percent are owned/operated by independent small businesses whose collective investment is over one billion dollars. The remaining 10 percent are owned/operated by new tire manufactures.
Retreaded tires give the same mileage as comparable new tires, at a lower cost-per-mile. Furthermore, the cost of a passenger car retreaded tire will generally be 30 percent less than the cost of a new tire. Truck re-tread savings are greater. In 1996, this meant more than $2 billion savings for consumers.
Retreading tires conserves more than 400 million gallons of oil every year, according to TRIBE. Retreading tires also greatly reduces solid waste disposal problems by keeping tires out of landfills and on the road where they belong.
For more information write to: The Tire Retread Information Bureau, 900 Weldon Grove, Pacific Grove, Calif. 93950. (408) 372-1917. Fax: (408) 372-8732.
Quality Construction Is Key To Liner Success
Although today's landfills must be designed with sophisticated liner systems, do we really understand the importance of quality construction?
After much observation, we know how liner systems perform; models have been developed and material specifications have become more detailed. Yet, both time and money can be lost if the liner systems' construction fails to meet the highest standards.
Investigations of liner system problems reveal that poor construction often is the culprit. Landfill construction can require moving millions of cubic yards of materials and placing thousands of square yards of liner. Typically, this must be done to exact specifications, which involve moving heavy equipment around the site. Weather also is a major factor. Considering all of these potential challenges, it's not surprising that problems arise.
The engineers at Camp Dresser & Mckee (CDM), Cambridge, Mass., suggest the following tips to help minimize and eliminate construction problems:
* Constructibility review. The design should be reviewed with experienced construction personnel to ensure the facility can be built at reasonable cost without field adjustments or order changes.
* Experienced contractor. Make sure the chosen contractor is experienced in landfill construction and liner placement. Set minimum qualifications. While experience is obviously critical for proper placement of synthetic materials, it also is critical for clay liners. Many earth moving contractors do not have experience in working with and placing clay.
* Work with the contractor. Resolve issues early and fairly to the satisfaction of both parties.
* Specifications. Use material specifications that meet project requirements. In particular, be sure the various testing methods are the correct ones. If testing procedures are used that are not "standard to the industry," make sure all parties involved understand the reasons. Also, never accept alternative materials offered by a contractor unless it is fully demonstrated that they meet the design intent and requirements.
* Quality assurance (QA) program. Most construction permits require a QA program which is critical to success. Use a program that has been successful in the past and update procedures as experience is gained. Fully implement and document the program. If site conditions or special materials are mandated, use the wide range of testing procedures available.
* Full-time inspector. During liner installation, a full-time, trained inspector should be present always as work proceeds on liner installation and/or if work is being performed on or near lines. "If an inspector is not present during construction, it's easy for problems to occur," CDM's Dan Duffy said. "For example, after a liner construction project is complete, a contractor's employee may decide to perform a final task such as using a bulldozer to fine grade the sand drainage layer over the liner. Using a bulldozer, the employee risks puncturing holes in the liner."
The inspector also should be in direct contact with the design engineer/project manager to review any deviations in the materials used in the construction process. Regular contact and progress meetings are necessary to ensure that the design's intent is being met.
The solid waste industry routinely constructs landfills by using experienced contractors, proven QA programs and trained inspectors. However, the industry must apply project lessons learned to new projects, perfecting the art of landfill construction.
Split The Can: Making Co-collection Work
Two years ago, Ruben Mesa, solid waste superintendent for Oxnard, Calif., was stumped.
How could he get the city on track to meet the state's mandated diversion goal, satisfy his customers who demanded increased recycling capacity and handle the addition of green waste collection - all without raising residential ratepayers' bills?
Noting the success of Visalia, Calif., with its split container system, Mesa decided to convert the city to a similar co-collection system program.
By 1996, the early results were in. A recent 349-home, split container pilot program tonnage comparison study illustrates Oxnard's diversion success over the past two years due to the additional recycling and green waste collection: While the standard service neighborhood area (using 105-gallon refuse and 15-gallon recycling basket) showed a diversion level of 15.24 percent, the neighborhoods that used the new 110-gallon, split container and 105-gallon green waste receptacle, registered a 47.45 percent diversion rate - or a 32.21 percent diversion impact.
Additionally, residents reported they are satisfied with their service, according to a survey conducted by waste reduction assistant Shaw Brusven.
While the transition will not be implemented citywide until 1998, Oxnard expects a $2,836,394 return on investment by 2009.
Rising from the few initial pilot programs in the summer of 1995, the system currently encompasses 7,620 single-family residences and will serve 28,000 homes upon completion.
"We are expanding the program at approximately 1,000 homes per month," explained residential supervisor Dudley Perkins.
Initially, the city invested $2.8 million through its solid waste enterprise fund to purchase 28,000 split containers at $100 each. The 110-gallon container is divided evenly down the middle with the black lid for refuse and the other side for recyclables.
To simultaneously collect trash and recyclables, Oxnard purchased a dual-compartment, automated collection truck, manufactured by Heil Co., Chattanooga, Tenn.
"There is an investment that comes along with change and innovation," Mesa said. "However, the split container program will help us achieve waste diversion, generate revenue from additional residential recycling and reduce landfill transportation costs and tipping fees."
How They Did It Mesa cites three important variables in gaining support from the city council, solid waste oversight committee and his team:
1 Meeting residential customer demand to increase recycling capacity. Residents switch from an open, 15-gallon mixed recycling basket to the split container's 55-gallon recyclables side with weekly collection.
The larger container better met the customers' recycling needs and encouraged a full commitment to residential waste reduction. Scavenging complaints also were reduced by the closed, split container.
2 Meeting residential customer demand for green waste collection. Residents use their old trash container for weekly green waste collection.
The grass clippings, tree trimmings, leaves and lumber are transported to a recovery facility where they are processed into mulch. "The avoidance costs from a citywide green waste program will help us offset the split container investment," Mesa explained.
The city now uses its residential automated side-loader vehicles - which had been replaced by the co-collection vehicles - to collect the curbside green waste.
3 Adding new service without raising costs. Oxnard's single-family home residents pay the same rate with an added green waste program and increased recycling capacity.
Public Education Challenges "When you challenge your customers by enhancing resource recovery capacity and reducing refuse space, an effective public education program prior to implementation is critical," Mesa said.
Oxnard's planning and implementation process included the following:
1 Implement by sections.
2 Contact neighborhood council chairs, attend meetings and make presentations so that the customers can ask questions and see the split container before it arrives on the doorstep. Oxnard also is producing a short, split container education video that can be shown regularly on the city's government television channel.
3 Mail letters to the affected neighborhoods. The double-sided letter also features visuals on what material to put on each side of the container. Green waste program information also is highlighted.
4 Canvass. If a resident is unavailable, door hangers mentioning the implementation date are left.
5 Distribute. Employees stencil "green waste" on each resident's former refuse container
6 Collect everything, make notes and follow up during the first week. In the second through the fourth week, inspect green waste cans and identify contamination areas.
7 Begin tracking split container and green waste contaminated residential accounts and focus on "one-to-one" outreach.
How Co-Collection Works When the new split container empties its contents into the truck, its center divider lines up with an inner divider in the truck - so that both recyclables and waste stay where they belong. The recyclables drop into the top compartment while waste empties into the lower compartment.
A small, inner door holds the recyclables in place and keeps them from falling into the waste compartment. The larger, outer door encloses the truck's back and keeps the waste inside. The truck has a nineton capacity (5.4 tons, or 60 percent, for refuse and 3.6 tons, or 40 percent, for recyclables).
"We were one of the first cities in the nation to implement a fully automated operation in 1982," Mesa said. "Therefore, [having] one operator isn't a new concept, but [having] one vehicle picking up both recyclables and refuse means less fuel use and less air pollution."
The calculation speaks for itself. According to Oxnard's previous standard residential collection program, eighteen routes ran Monday through Thursdays each week (nine for refuse collection and nine for recyclables collection).
Thus, the new co-collection vehicles eliminate nine vehicle routes daily - or 1,872 vehicle routes per year.
The purchase of co-collection vehicles - costing $150,000 each - to serve the initial 28,000 split containers was not included in the invested amount.
However, the refuse division is using its existing vehicle replacement program fund for the purchase of the split container vehicle.
"This funding has allowed us to purchase the first four split container trucks without searching for additional dollars," said Grant Dunne, an administrative assistant with the city's solid waste programs.
The city also could used Intermodal Surface Transport and Efficiency Act federal grant funds and the profit from the sale of used curbside recycle collection vehicles as funding sources.
Currently, Oxnard owns five co-collection trucks and will add seven more to take the program citywide by 1998. Only one of the trucks, a 1985 Heil 7000, was retrofitted. The rest of the fleet is or will be new vehicles.
The dual-compartment containers, manufactured by Boner Plastics, Tualatin, Ore., were purchased from a partnership formed by Ruckstell California Sales Inc., Fresno, Calif., and the city of Visalia.
Recently, Oxnard began offering a 70-gallon split container to its 1,000 customers who opt for its reduced rate incentive. Currently, 50 of those customers have made the transition.
City officials estimate it will take approximately six years from citywide implementation, beginning fiscal year 1998-99, to receive a return on investment.
Refuse Trucks * Residential vehicles: 6 sideloader Mack Automated, 2 sideloader Mack Auto Amrep, 3 sideloader Peterbilt Automated, 2 sideloader Mack Recycler, 3 sideloader White/GMC Recycler, 4 sideloader White/GMC Auto and 4 sideloader Recycler Volvo Auto
* Commercial Automated: 3 Macks, 6 White/GMC, 1 Peterbilt, 1 Volvo
* Industrial Rolloff Vehicles: 4 Macks,2 Peterbilts, 4 White/GMC
* Waste Transfer Station Long Haul Vehicles: 11 Semitractors Kenworth and 11 Trailer Peerless Live Floor Containers
* Residential: 26,000 105-gallon Turnkey,10,500 110-split gallon by Boner Plastic (manufacturer) and Ruckstell California Sales and City of Visalia, Calif., and 2,000 60-gallon Toter
* Commercial/Multi-Family: 1,439 2-yard and 1,487 4-yard
* Rolloff ("Open-Top Containers"): 82 13.4-yard Consolidated, 180 30-yard Consolidated and 2 40-yard Consolidated.
Customers: 28,000 residential, 2,300 commercial and 215 industrial
Services: recycling, C&D removal and recycling, business and industry collection, residential collection, waste transfer and materials recovery station and refuse/recycling education programs.
Local Tipping Fees: $33.50 per ton at the Del Norte Regional Recycling and Transfer Station in Oxnard.