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Landfill adapts to more growth

Posted 1/15/14 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

The McKenzie County Landfill has climbed the charts, so to speak, becoming one of the larger landfill operations in the state of North Dakota in 2013, and one of the five largest landfills in North Dakota, alongside Williston and Dickinson.
The landfill’s change in status is due largely to oil activity in the region and has caused McKenzie County Landfill Director Rick Schreiber to make some major changes since taking over in 2011. The most recent upgrade to the McKenzie County Landfill has been the addition of the new scale house, a state-of-the-art video surveillance system and a radiation detection monitor.
“We are still having problems with filter socks,” states Schreiber.
He states that in 2013, his crew caught 1,081 filter socks, which is an average of 90 a month.
“It is a business decision,” states Schreiber. “If they can sneak it by me, they just saved themselves a lot of money. So they try.”
When caught, however, the people trying to dump filter socks are fined $1,000 per filter sock and the landfill documents each incident with paperwork and photographs that are then sent to the state of North Dakota.
Filter socks are materials that are used in fracking and are almost always radioactive. It is their radioactive nature that makes them illegal for Schreiber to accept at the county landfill, and that makes them so difficult to deal with, period.
“Companies have to contain them properly and send them to the nearest disposal site,” states Schreiber.
The nearest disposal site to North Dakota is located in Idaho and Colorado, which is why companies that use filter socks try to slide them under the radar of the county landfill.
According to Schreiber, companies have gone out of their way to slip them through, undetected. But now with the landfill’s new radiation monitor, Schreiber feels it will be virtually impossible.
“Before our guys usually found the socks while they were going through the loads with the machines,” states Schreiber. “When that happened, we would immediately stop going through the load and call the company to come back and remove the socks from our site. Now, however, as the drivers pull up on the scale, they have to drive through our radiation monitor.”
Schreiber states the monitor is so sensitive it was once set off by a driver who had drank a radioactive solution for a medical procedure he had done earlier that day.
“We will find them,” states Schreiber. “We will find them, and we will document it and send the information on to the state. And then they will come after them.”
In 2013, the McKenzie County Landfill took in 68,893 tons of trash. According to Schreiber, 90 to 95 percent of that amount is oilfield-related.
Before the new scale house became operational six weeks ago, Schreiber was estimating each load’s tonnage by measuring its volume. Now that drivers can haul their loads right onto the scale, the landfill will be able to be more accurate with their numbers. Which will go a long way for them now that they are a Title 5, Subtitle 5 facility, and much more heavily regulated by the state and federal government.
“Back when we were bringing in less than 20 tons per day, we were much less regulated,” states Schreiber. “The state still monitored what we did, but now we are under more surveillance.”
It is also the reason why Schreiber is so vigilant about catching filter socks and making sure everything is done to code at the landfill.
In addition to a new scale house, complete with a radiation monitor and above ground scale, the landfill also installed a video surveillance system.
“Everything that comes through here is now recorded, as is everything we do,” states Schreiber.
He states that all the new improvements have allowed the landfill to operate much more efficiently and move people through much faster.
Behind the scale house, the landfill also built a shop, where much of the landfill’s equipment is now stored.
“We do not get to close down on cold days, because if we do, what will people do with all their trash?” states Schreiber.
The shop contains three bays and is heated to help keep the equipment from gelling and running smoothly.
According to Schreiber, the McKenzie County Landfill takes in twice the amount of trash as the Dickinson Landfill, with half of the staff. And with the addition of the new scale house and new equipment, it is a highly sophisticated, highly regulated facility.
In March, Schreiber hopes to break ground on the sixth cell of the landfill. The county’s hope is that with the sixth cell not built yet, and 90 acres still waiting to be used, the current McKenzie County Landfill site will have another 50 years of usage.