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Packing in the garbage

Posted 1/27/15 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

In roughly two years, the McKenzie County Landfill went from taking in under 20 tons of trash a day to 250 to 300 tons a day. But even those numbers seem small when between 1,300 to 1,400 tons of trash can pour into the landfill, according to Rick Schreiber, McKenzie County Landfill and Solid Waste director.
“Any other landfill in the country taking in that same amount of inbound trash is working with crews of seven to 10 people,” said Schreiber. “Basically, we have four people running the equipment at our landfill, with myself filling in where I need to. But we make it work.”
Unfortunately for Schreiber and his crew, they are competing with the oil field when it comes to finding help. Trying to recruit, hire, and retain employees at the landfill has been a struggle. The McKenzie County Landfill has been advertising for operator positions for close to a year and a half now, with a less than pleasing outcome.
“Unfortunately, we have to compete with the oil field,” said Schreiber. “In order to keep people here, we have to pay them. That means we have to figure out what works here, in the Bakken, to recruit people and get them to stay here. How do you get people to come here with the cold winters, bad roads, and all the truck traffic? It’s not so much the issue of paying these people - it’s getting them to stay here. It’s just a vicious cycle.”
According to Schreiber, he would be comfortable with one, possibly two additional operators, if they could just recruit and hire them. And even in spite of the dropping oil prices, Schreiber isn’t too worried about the landfill being impacted negatively or  the tonnage of inbound trash decreasing.  
“The constant here is that people will continue producing trash,” said Schreiber, “and that will never stop. So I don’t think we’re really going to be affected too much by the falling oil prices.”
In 2014, the McKenzie County Landfill brought in 42,574 tons of trash.  However, prior to December 2013, when they installed an inbound scale, the measurement of inbound trash was measured in cubic yards instead of tons. Therefore, everything in 2013 was based on the cubic yard, and the landfill brought in a total of 79,000 tons - in cubic yards, of trash.
According to Schreiber, one garbage truck equalled between 20 and 40 cubic yards of trash. And usually, they had to make their best estimate in addition to physically going out with a tape measure and measuring the cubic yards of trash by hand. That was prior to the scale installation.
Although the amount of overall inbound trash dropped in 2014 from 2013, revenue rose. In 2014, the landfill made $3.02 million, an increase from the $2.9 million made in 2013. Because the landfill is an enterprise fund, they do not get any tax money. Therefore, the revenue earned does not incorporate any state or government tax money.
Revenue has not only increased due to the population growth in the oil field, but also in large part due to projects that were started/finished in 2014, and will hopefully, continue to increase with projects slated for completion in 2015.
Phase 6 Construction was the building of a sixth cell within the landfill that was completed in 2014. The cell was built to take in and hold additional trash, and should last for five to six years.
“That means we will not have to build another cell for a while,” said Schreiber. “With cells one through four completely closed, full, and covered, we are basically running two cells right now.”
According to Josh Moody, McKenzie County Landfill Operations supervisor, cell 5 may only last another two to three months, until it is completely full. Currently, cell 6 is only being used to hold compacted household trash until cell 5 is full.
Because North Dakota has had a fairly mild winter so far, the landfill has run steadily, and business has not slowed down.
“We’re still steady,” says Schreiber. “We’re still bringing in construction waste. This winter has been very mild, whereas last winter it was so cold that business slowed down. But not this year. We are getting anywhere from 50 to 60 trucks a day. There hasn’t been any slowdown this winter.”
Another project that started in 2014 was the installation of a new outbound scale. According to Schreiber, an outbound scale will make it more efficient for trucks to get in and out of the facility as fast as they can, to eliminate the lines of trucks and their wait time.
“The outbound scale will be up and running as soon as contractors can trench through the ground,” said Schreiber. “Electricians will be on-site the last week of January, and there will be a couple of other things that will need to happen with that, such as adding another speaker, installing additional security cameras, and getting it all powered. It’s about 75 percent right now. Once it’s up and running, we won’t have 15 to 20 trucks waiting in line at the inbound scale. It gets jammed up so bad, and it’s just not efficient right now.”
With the 2014 projects successfully increasing the efficiency and productivity at the landfill, there are engineering projects slated for 2015 as well, which include the completion of a second leachate pond and the construction of a Public Drop-off Area.
The completion of the second leachate pond, which is located directly south of the first pond, will be able to hold up to 800,000 pounds, and should last approximately five years. Schreiber explained a leachate pond to be much like a coffee pot in the process of making coffee.
The trash represents the coffee grounds. When the trash (coffee grounds) goes into the cell (coffee filter), water then filters through the coffee grounds to make the coffee. Similarly, when liquid like rainwater goes through the trash, the liquid waste water (coffee) is the final component. Once this waste water is pumped out of the cell and into the ponds, it is then evaporated.
With the McKenzie County Landfill being a Title 5 and Sub-Title D entity for the last year, they have been required to operate under federal guidelines, adhering to strict rules and regulations. One of those regulations mandates the landfill to pump out that waste water. As a result of being a Title 5 and Sub-Title D entity, most of the projects that have been done or are slated to being finished, have been required and mandated for current and future expansion.
Another highlighted project for 2015 is the construction and completion of a Public Drop-off Area. Currently, county residents drop off trash at the landfill by navigating their way to the various designated areas, which ultimately can leave a person trying to figure out the maze of the landfill, and many times results in various safety concerns for not only the county residents, but for the landfill employees as well.
“The Public Drop-off Area will be safer and more efficient for people,” says Schreiber. “It will be in one central area versus being spread out everywhere, with designated zones for the different materials being dropped off. People won’t have to figure out the maze of the landfill.”
A pre-construction meeting was recently held with bids to be received by Jan. 29. By Feb. 17, they hope to have a contract signed with notice to proceed on May 5. Final completion of the new Public Drop-off Area is set for Aug. 14. There is a break of a few months within that time frame due to 132nd Avenue being paved.
Once the Public Drop-off Area is open, the public will be able to access it Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with Saturday hours - 7 a.m. to noon - beginning in the summer. The project will also include paving some roads and a parking lot, with some ‘beautification’ pieces. The public will still have to enter and go across the scale, but the Public Drop-off Area will be located just behind the scale house. This will help control the flow of people, and allow for a safer location to drop off items. There will also be one flat rate of $15 for anything under 500 pounds.
Lastly, Schreiber is currently working on the county’s first Household Hazardous Materials Collection Day event. It’s a mobile collection event that allows residents to collect and dispose of their hazardous household items that otherwise can’t be disposed of at the county landfill. Items include cleaners, acids, solvents, propane tanks, spray cans, paint, car batteries, e-waste, televisions, expired prescription medications, etc.
“Instead of people throwing away their little camping propane tanks when they return from a camping trip, they can bring and discard them for free at this one-day event,” said Schreiber. “I want to let the county know that we will definitely be doing this free dump-day this year, and that we want to provide people with a place they can get rid of that stuff. It is typically toward the end of summer, and as the details get worked out and we get closer to that date, I will be getting the word out and informing the public.”
According to Schreiber, the event did not take place last year, as it was not logistically feasible due to the construction and expansion projects taking place. But he is committed to the event taking place this year.
For general questions or information about the landfill, or questions regarding the event, the public is welcome to call Schreiber at 701-586-3445 or email him at rschreiber@co.mckenzie.nd.us. The McKenzie County Landfill is located six miles west of Watford City on Highway 85, then two miles south at 2491 132nd Avenue NW, in Arnegard.