Is Your Waste Facility a Good Neighbor?

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Ours would not be a civilized society without waste management services. But if a waste facility’s neighbors are offended by odors, noise, dust, litter, or a negative appearance, there can be hell to pay. Thankfully, there are great technologies and best practices to help facilities be good neighbors.

Odor Avoidance is Primary
Smell is our most primitive sense and is located in the same part of the brain that effects emotions, memory, and creativity. Because we are so sensitive to smell, there’s nothing like an offensive odor to incite citizens to “raise a stink” over what they rightly perceive as a major threat to their quality of life. Waste facilities can avoid this problem by investing, up front, in effective odor-control technologies.

NCM Odor Control provides customized, turnkey, high-pressure atomizing odor-control and dust-control delivery systems to a national and international client base. The company manufactures its own proprietary and environmentally safe odor-control chemicals at its plant in South River, NJ. NCM neutralizers are effective against certain specific types of waste- related odors, typically derivatives of sulfur and ammonia, converting odors to stable, non-harmful compounds.

NCM President Marc Levin emphasized the importance of neutralizing rather than just masking odors. He also says odor-control systems must be customized. “There’s no magic bullet. Some chemicals are cheaper but can corrode equipment, clog nozzles, destroy injection pumps, and separate.”

Levin explained that, while deodorants in masking agents are not generally used anymore, tracer scents that purposefully emit a distinctive odor are sometimes added to assess how far the neutralizer will carry, in order to gauge application rates and efficacy. Citrus-based tracers, for example, are often used for compost facilities because the scent interacts well with compost odors.

While applying neutralizers directly at the odor source is best, perimeter controls are used where dry landfills are required (such as in California). NCM also has a waterless system good for use in cold climates and in facilities that lack sufficient/quality water supply. Electrical blowers disperse the chemicals in vapor form through pipes. Such waterless systems are particularly good for managing sheet rock, which emits hydrogen sulfide and smells like rotten eggs when wet.

Benzaco Scientific helps clients to be good neighbors by providing a range of odor neutralizers, H2S scavengers, granular products, and enzyme-based chemistry. “Failure to take odor complaints seriously often results in a notice of violation, fines, and litigation expenses and, in the most extreme cases, loss of future permit renewals or expansions,” says Rick O’Sadnick, Benzaco’s senior scientist. O’Sadnick and others interviewed for this article emphasize that masking agents do not work and may actually compound malodor issues. Using a vapor-phase odor-control system that neutralizes odors will solve the problem.

He cites a California landfill that had been co-composting with sewage sludge. Since 1995, the landfill had tried various methods to control its serious odor problem, without success. Benzaco designed and piloted a high-pressure vapor-phase control system to deliver a complex essential oil-odor-neutralizing agent. Although initially skeptical, site personnel were impressed and installed three full-scale systems to cover the entire site. Since that time, odor complaints have dropped from over 20 a month to less than two a year. More importantly, odor-control costs have dropped dramatically from almost $200,000 to less than $12,000 per year.

“Establishing a relationship with a testing laboratory lends credibility that the MSW facility is serious about dealing with an odor issue,” says Chuck McGinley, technical director at St. Croix Sensory. This air-quality testing and training company uses highly trained human assessors to test air samples against ASTM and international standards. It also trains managers and operators how to quantify their odors, find root causes, and effectively use the data to address the problem.

Many waste facilities use St. Croix’s Nasal Ranger, a field olfactometer that enables odor assessors to evaluate air samples. The assessors report when they can first smell a difference between a diluted ambient sample and a purified puff of air, producing a detection value called dilutions-to-threshold (D/T).

St. Croix also provides training through its Nasal Ranger “Odor School” program that prepares inspectors to conduct field evaluations of ambient odors. Odor School graduates become qualified “field odor inspectors” with sufficient practical knowledge to assist in understanding a community’s air quality. In addition, St. Croix offers the Odor-GIS Program, a subscription service using Google Earth. Customers can visually see the amount of odor recorded over time and wind direction. The program permanently stores a facility’s odor inspection data.

MicroCool is another supplier of high-pressure odor-control delivery systems that inject a mixture of neutralizer and water into the air at a ratio around 1:1000. The system atomizes the water into billions of droplets that quickly evaporate, leaving the odor product to entrap the malodors and biologically degrade them. While MicroCool does not manufacture or sell odor-control products, it recommends certain manufacturers, including Pilan Corp. of Palm Springs, CA, and Kuma Corp. of Grass Valley, CA, whose products are particularly adapted to use with MicroCool’s system and not congeal in the nozzle line. The system includes sensors for wind (direction and speed), temperature, rain, and time, to control chemical product use and costs.

“Maintenance is key,” says Justin Armstrong, MicroCool production manager. “These systems operate in a hostile environment. The pump system should be maintained every 500 hours (approximately every three months). Water quality should also be regularly monitored, and water filters changed on pump assemblies to eliminate sediment and dissolved solids.” Microcool’s system adjusts pressure automatically so that nozzles don’t blow out if clogged. According to Armstrong, “Ninety percent of the time when a system goes down, it’s due to lack of maintenance.”

OMI Industries’ Ecosorb eliminates odors without the use of harsh or hazardous chemicals, expensive emission control systems, or masking fragrances. The product seeks out and destroys organic and inorganic odors on a molecular level. The product line can be delivered one of four ways: addition, atomization, vaporization, and encapsulation. It is effective for both organic and inorganic odors, is safe for humans and animals, and is environmentally friendly.

Ecosorb is being used effectively in all types of solid waste facilities. Applications in transfer stations involve installing atomization nozzles directly beneath the ceiling over load-out and tipping areas. As a side benefit, the high-volume atomization systems suppress dust along with odor. The product is available in a spray gel formulation that is ideal for compost applications. Ecosorb is also effective in sludge composting operations where the product is atomized in concentrate form with nozzles or humidifying fans.

Banish Litter, Dust, and Mud
To be a good neighbor, a waste facility must prevent litter and debris from blowing offsite and must keep adjacent roads free of mud.

While not mandated, most states specify debris and litter fencing as a best practice, especially on the area closest to a landfill’s workface. Debris and litter fence netting is usually placed on the downwind side of a landfill. Designers take into account factors such as prevailing winds; distance to adjacent properties; traffic; and the cost of litter pickup. Transfer stations should have netting around the entire perimeter.

WindPatrol mobile litter fences by Abletech stop litter right at the source, close to the active face. The fences can quickly and easily be moved where they’re needed as site and wind conditions change, using a variety of equipment, including compactors, bulldozers, loaders, and forks. Made of steel, these highly durable, no-maintenance screens cause litter to drop to the ground rather than stick to the fence.

Abletech also makes the WindPatrol Mobile Wind Screen that is placed at the upwind side of the active face to slow wind speed and therefore minimize blowing litter. According to Mike Olsen, Abletech president, the windscreens have been demonstrated to reduce wind speed by up to 50%.

Ace Netting has been specializing in landfill and transfer station netting for more than 20 years. Its translucent polyethylene netting is durable and typically lasts up to 15 years (barring hurricanes or tornados). According to Ace owner and founder Charlie Parker, steel poles are optimal because they hold up best in storms and do not need the maintenance required for wooden poles. Litter netting is sold in 5-foot increments; most landfills have 20- to 30-foot high perimeter netting and plant hedgerows 6 to 10 feet off the netting. Parker observes that the cost of netting is offset by labor savings. Some sites he has served had as many as 15 full-time employees picking up wind-blown trash but after installing the netting they were able to cut the workforce down to two.

Dust from a waste facility also generates complaints from neighbors and must be suppressed before it becomes fugitive. Especially in arid locations and during dry weather, dust can be generated at conveyor systems, transfer points, and from reject piles. Dust can be particularly problematic at construction and demolition (C&D) landfills where there is a lot of drywall waste. Microcool and several other companies supply fogging systems that encapsulate dust with water, causing the particles to drop to the ground for cleanup.

Truck washing is another best practice to prevent complaints from the community, especially during wet conditions when trucks can track mud onto neighborhood roads. Not only do clean trucks look nice, but they smell better, too.

Fleetwash is a nationwide company providing onsite truck washing services. Some customers conduct truck cleaning on designated mats but in most cases, trucks are cleaned where they are parked by specialized washing trucks equipped with burners to heat the wash water. This ensures a cleaner wash, using biodegradable soap.

Fleetwash pioneered methods for preventing wastewater from entering storm drains as required by the Clean Water Act. Wastewater is channeled and pooled using booms or dikes. Storm drains are sealed during the washing operation using custom, pliable latex mats. Wastewater is captured and removed using a high-powered air blower that creates suction in a vacuum tank. This vacuum system is mounted in the same vehicle as the pressure washer and the two processes are fully integrated. Transportation costs are greatly reduced since the wash vehicle is also the wastewater transport vehicle.

The wastewater is then transported to the Fleetwash facility and pumped into holding tanks for treatment. The effluent is finally pumped into the sanitary drain for elimination, in conformance with local sewer permit requirements. The residual sludge is classified as nonhazardous and is drummed for legal disposal. Since this material is not hazardous there is no need for a manifest.


InterClean is another firm providing truck-washing equipment. Its unattended Centri*Spinner Technology can wash a truck in less than two minutes and typically handles up to 30 trucks per hour. The system first applies a nonhazardous, environmentally friendly cleaning agent and then the vehicle moves through a high pressure washing station. The truck receives a final fresh water rinse at end.

The Centri*Spinner system recycles up to 300 gallons of water per minute. Each truck wash uses an average of 150 gallons per wash; 70% of which is recycled.

Les Gale, sales representative for InterClean, says that, in addition to improving appearances, routine washing dramatically reduces corrosion and improves accessibility to the maintenance areas of the vehicle. InterClean recommends cleaning wash pits once or twice a year to remove solids, gravel, and sand.

Appearances Count
Protective berms and vegetative buffers are critical for maintaining good community relations. With proper and sufficient landscaping, a waste facility can be “out of sight, out of mind” in many communities, as demonstrated by the examples described below.

The Lannert Group, a planning, landscape architecture, and community consulting firm based in Geneva, Illinois, has worked on more than 40 landfills and 20 transfer stations over the past 30 years. According to Chris Lannert, company president, “Now that solid waste facilities have addressed below grade technical and operational issues, the focus is shifting towards making them look more like parks than utilities.” He says facility designs must allow for sufficient perimeter setbacks for landscaping, particularly when they are near residential and business development. Where possible, a mix of evergreen and deciduous plant material is optimal for seasonal variety. Landscaping designs also must incorporate fencing needs for security and streetscape appearance.

Lannert indicated that while grasses have typically been used as vegetative cover for landfills, now several tree species, such as poplar, are being used, especially on diversion berms, where they assist in surface water runoff without affecting cap integrity. These vertical plantings also help provide visual texture, create sun and shade patterns, and abate noise.

In addition to ensuring that a facility has “curb appeal,” employees’ appearance also helps to cultivate good community relations. Sally Bowen, chief executive officer of the Reflective Apparel Factory, observes that the waste industry was the first big adaptor to reflective clothing to address worker safety issues. Most waste haulers purchase rather than rent employee uniforms and customize them with the company’s logo for a professional look. Two-tone uniforms are popular, with a darker color or black being used to hide dirt. Uniforms are made with performance fabrics identical to those used by the military and by athletes because the material is anti-microbial, comfortable, durable, and wicks moisture.

Best Practice Examples
Loudoun County, VA-The landfill for Loudoun County, VA, goes way back. Started in 1971, it holds state permit number one. Located in the geographic center of one of the fastest-growing and most affluent counties in the nation, the landfill has enjoyed good community relations over the past 20 years but there was a time when things weren’t so “peachy.” Things got better beginning in the 1990s when the county installed a public water supply after listening to neighborhood concerns, and began operating the facility with more modern environmentally driven expectations and increased regulation.

Encroaching residential development has not been a problem, according to Mike Fairbanks, division manager, Landfill Operations, Loudoun County Department of Construction and Waste Management. An adjacent community of expensive homes on 3-acre wooded lots is located on the north side along the older portion of the landfill. Two new residential subdivisions abut on the east and west sides.

Fairbanks maintains e-mail contact with the neighbors. He also has developed good relationships with local real estate agents, who send prospective homebuyers to talk with him and tour the landfill. In fact, local residents have been so comfortable with its landfill neighbor that two years ago, the school board built the Sycolin Creek Elementary School immediately across from the landfill’s entrance. Fairbanks also helped the local Eagle Scout troop build a nature trail on the site as a community service project by donating mulch and removing junk.

The site is protected by a 300-foot buffer consisting of berms, trees, and litter netting that blocks line of sight. In one area that had been hayfield, Loudoun planted 21,000 pine seedlings that have grown into a mature evergreen forest. The landfill continues to plant native species where needed.

Loudoun positions temporary, portable litter fencing manufactured by Bull and Abletech on the downwind of the working face. Fairbanks said, “I don’t know what we did without them-they are fabulous.” They also bring in temporary help when the wind blows to collect the litter captured by the fencing, and use a Madvac to vacuum up the litter. As the landfill increases in elevation the chance for litter increases, but because the temporary fences move with the working face, litter is kept under control.

According to Fairbanks, the landfill has no odor problem. It does not accept greenwaste, and the material is generally dry. The facility buries every day and have an active LFG extraction system.

Noise hasn’t been a problem, either. The county limited operating hours to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To proactively address any potential truck noise complaints, the facility quickly fills any potholes on the gravel access roads within the site. Loudoun has two water trucks used for dust control. During wet weather, the facility uses a Neptune wheel wash procured from Innovative Systems to remove mud from truck tires as they leave the facility and also does street cleaning on adjacent roads.

The Loudoun Landfill also funds a quarterly cleanup along the road that leads to the facility and provides for waived fees for a local litter control group (Keep Loudoun Beautiful).

Alliance Landfill, Pennsylvania-Developing good community relations resulted in a dramatic turnaround for the troubled Alliance Landfill in the towns of Taylor, Ransom, and Old Forge, in northeastern Pennsylvania. Established in the mid-1980s on the site of a depleted coalmine, at times the working face was less than one-half mile upwind from residential neighborhoods. The disposal area is now still less than a mile away from multiple subdivisions.

The landfill’s 1999 application for an expansion was met with tremendous community opposition, primarily because of odors. When the expansion was denied in 2001, Waste Management, which owns and operates the landfill, initiated a comprehensive program of major site improvements.

The gas-collection system was the primary odor source. In winter, ice plugs formed that prevented a good vacuum on the gas lines. The company installed capping and system upgrades as well as improvements to its wastewater treatment plant. It also made the disposal area as tight as possible (reducing the working face to less than 30,000 square feet), ensured that line sprayers were oriented and working efficiently, and switched to Benzaco’s fragrance-free odor control product with good results.

Concurrent with the incremental technical improvements, Alliance launched a community relations plan that ultimately resulted in delivering approval of a redesigned expansion on October 28, 2010, with strong community support and highly positive local media coverage.

When Alliance initiated operational changes in 2002, John Hambrose, Alliance’s community relations coordinator, started attending town council meetings. “The landfill’s position in the community was so poor in the beginning that almost anything we did was an improvement. We immediately announced a new “˜open door policy,’ launched a community newsletter, and planned site tours and events. We also opened a storefront on Main Street in Old Forge (the most hostile community) where we offered free computer classes.” Among the many community programs supported by Alliance were fall “Trash Bashes,” a “NASCAR Night” site event, several Chamber of Commerce mixers, Rotary Club luncheons, and firemen’s picnics.

One persistent complaint in the late 1990s was about the landfill’s appearance. Located on a hillside above the towns, residents disliked the landfill’s engineered look. To address this issue, Alliance invited its neighbors to form a Community Landscape Committee. According to Hambrose, one member was surprised to learn that regulations required frequent slope mowing and prohibited the growth of “woody” plants. “I thought you were just cheap,” he said.

The committee worked with Alliance to develop an innovative plan to plant native trees and shrubs, seed a six-acre meadow, and designate a 25-acre succession zone. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved the demonstration project in time for groundbreaking on Earth Day in 2004. Instead of looking at the mountainside and seeing the landfill, Alliance’s neighbors began asking how the trees were doing and were pleased to see a forest beginning to grow.

The media plays a huge role in influencing attitudes about solid waste facilities. Before 2002, Alliance had not made itself accessible to the press; media calls received antiseptic faxed responses. “When a business like a landfill fails to tell its story,” Hambrose points out, “someone nearby will do it.” Once Alliance cultivated good press relations, the media was very interested in what the landfill had to say. Alliance received great coverage of the landscape project and its many other community outreach events.

Lorain County Landfill-The Lorain County Landfill has achieved a solid reputation as a good neighbor. Located in an agricultural area only two miles from the college town of Oberlin, OH, and 15 to 20 minutes from the Cleveland suburbs, the landfill has residences and businesses along part of its perimeter.

Owned and operated by Republic Services, the 1,400-acre site currently devotes 279 acres to landfill disposal. The balance of the property is protected wetlands and buffer areas. A recycling center also operated by Republic is next door. Approximately 400 trucks deliver about 4,500 tons of solid waste daily.

While the facility has not received many complaints, they occasionally get a call about odor, primarily from the LFG capture operation. Additional wells were installed to address this concern and Lorain implemented the Nasal Ranger program offered by St. Croix Sensory. It uses an odor-misting system on the workface in addition to daily cover. It also recently reconfigured traffic flow into the facility to eliminate truck congestion at the entrance, regularly sweeps the main road to the landfill, and sprays roads to eliminate dust during
dry spells.

Recognizing the important of visual appeal, the Lorain Landfill installed new landscaping at its entrance. On the more visually exposed north side, it built up a berm and planted more than 150 trees to enhance the buffer. Lorain also donated trees to New Russia Township for Earth Day and will continue to plant trees around its perimeter.

The site has litter fencing that is very effective and also uses temporary labor to collect any wind-blown trash. Going above and beyond, Republic collaborates with community groups to hold periodic litter pickup campaigns throughout the community and nearby highways.

We do lots of things to enhance our reputation in the community,” says Jeff Kraus, area community relations manager. The landfill has an odor telephone hotline and distributes a quarterly newsletter to people who live nearby. He also emphasized the importance of sponsoring community events. Lorain offers weekly tours attended by schools, farm bureaus, politicians, and citizens. The landfill supports the Oberlin College athletic program and routinely supplies bottled water imprinted with the Republic logo. It sponsored a “Go Green Day” during the 2010 Oberlin vs. Ohio Wesleyan football game, where they distributed recyclable tote bags bearing the Republic logo and sponsored recycling messages on the electronic scoreboard.

In addition, the landfill is involved with the local chamber of commerce, sponsors the Fourth of July music concert in Oberlin, supports the community’s Pride Day with donations of bottled water and other items, and sponsors the tractor pull at the Lorain County Fair that typically draws 100,000 visitors annually.

Perceptions Are Real
“Good fences made good neighbors” is believed to be an English proverb from the 17th century. In his poem, “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost asks why a man and his neighbor must rebuild the stone wall dividing their farms each spring. The neighbor rebuilds the wall without question, quoting the proverb, but Frost notes that neither his apple trees nor his neighbor’s pine trees are likely to encroach on the other’s property: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out / And to whom I was like to give offense?”

In much the same way, waste management facilities must deal with neighbors’ perceptions in order to achieve community support. This can be accomplished by “walling in” odors, dust, litter, and other offenses, and by reaching out to neighbors and contributing to their wellbeing.

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