Evaporator paying dividends for landfill, counties

Operational change has saved landfill more than a half-million dollars

By Steve Schulwitz
The Alpena News

ATLANTA, Mich. (AP) - The future is bright for the Montmorency-Oscoda-Alpena landfill financially and operationally.

Several changes to how the landfill disposes of leachate have helped save the landfill more than a half-million dollars in just over a year's time. As a result it has been able to significantly increase its cash allocations to the three counties, which can use the money for county needs.

Administrator Sandy Cunningham told The Alpena News that the purchase of an evaporator that sprays a light mist of leachate that evaporates before hitting the ground has resulted in not having to pay trucks to haul the leachate to a treatment plant. She said one operational change alone has helped to prop up a budget that was in trouble several years ago.

"We are in excellent condition and we are continuing to save considerably with the use of the evaporator," Cunningham said. "We are always trying to be proactive and looking to be innovative. The board has been great in being open minded in making advancements and we are doing great."

Other landfills are taking note of the success and as a result other operators have visited to see for themselves how the evaporator works and how it can be utilized at their locations. Cunningham said there was even a landfill manager from Venezuela who visited to learn more about the leachate procedure.

She said the evaporator can run 24 hours a day until the temperature dips to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. She said it can be run after hours, but must have an employee present in case there is an issue. The landfill is in the process of purchasing a smaller version of the evaporator, which will be placed by the two, 1 million gallon lagoons on site.

Cunningham said once installed the new evaporator will draw leachate from the lagoons and be able to run for long periods of time without supervision. The installation of a slab of concrete would allow leachate to drain back into the lagoon if there were a leak of some sort, which would allow for it to operate unsupervised.

"The company developed this one specifically for us. It will pump lower volumes, but we will be able to save considerably by running it unmanned," Cunningham said. "We will pour the concrete in the spring and the DNR has been very supportive and open minded about this process. It has seen that it works."

The employees also have been doing work that was in the past contracted out. Cunningham said staff is now conducting groundwater sampling and heavier maintenance on vehicles and equipment. She said the landfill's savings compared to several years ago is staggering. She said because expenditures are down and profits are up, the landfill has budgeted $150,000 that will go to each county.

"It is a nice position to be in to be able to help the counties right now when they need it the most," Cunningham said.

Plans for the construction of a gasification plant at the landfill are still in the works, although at a slow pace. Cunningham said she is in frequent contact with developer Recovered Energy Resources, but there is little to report at this time.

"There is really no new information," she said. "They were up here for the Intergovernmental meeting a few months ago and they have presented some design drawings. It is continuing to move forward. It would be huge for the area and really for the entire area when it's built."

Published: Thu, Dec 18, 2014

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