Landfill & Waste-to-Energy Q & A
My last column (from November 6) generated many questions. Trash in Frederick County certainly seems to be the hot topic. Trash is a given and we need to get out of our holding pattern. So, here I've done my best to address many of your questions.
1. Will there be odor resulting from mining landfills and, if so, how is that to be dealt with?
Short answer is yes. Landfill mining operations would take place in relatively small confined areas compared to the large area that landfilling of trash requires. From my research there will be odor; but in most - if not all - cases much less than the landfill operations and odors of today.
2. Would the county ever be inclined to opening up free markets to rubble yards?
I agree the county should find commercial outlets for rubble reuse. Using the private sector to manage this waste may prove the best solution in the long term. From those I've questioned, the county's waste strategies are to find commercial recycling and reuse for construction and demolitions debris, with a goal of accomplishing this within the next five years.
3. You said that the county needs to hit 60% recycling by 2024. Where does this number come from? As I see it, Frederick County should hit their Waste-to-Energy (WTE) capacity at current recycling rates in 2029 or 2030 based on population growth (i.e. roughly a ton a person gives you 340,000 tons in 2030.) Is this a statutory requirement, a Maryland Department of The Environment (MDE) requirement, or a goal of the county commissioners?
The county commissioner's set the 60% goal last year. The State of Maryland's statutory requirement, for a county the size of Frederick, is a minimum 20% recycling rate as calculated by the Maryland Recycling Act. Frederick County's rate is currently around 40%.
The state does not give the county credit for recycling construction and demolition debris, so these efforts will not show up in the county's recycling rate.
The WTE project that the county is considering would be sized for its planned life expectancy based on the waste volumes produced by the community during that period of time. Sizing the facility based on current waste disposal volumes originating from the existing population would result in an undersized facility when it opened, due to normal (expected) increases in population during the next five years.
On the other hand it is prudent to consider reasonable increases in the recycling rate which may reduce the amount of waste going to the WTE in the future. The commissioners appear to have recognized this by considering a facility size based on the assumption that they will reach a 60% recycling rate by 2024. Achieving a 60% recycling rate by 2024, or for that matter, every year after that, may be difficult. But setting a definitive goal, even if it is a little beyond the county's reach, is a good idea to ensure maximum progress toward higher recycling rates.
By now you've heard about the county's new single stream recycling that will be replacing the existing blue bin program. The county is literally rolling out the new program this week with the delivery of new 65-gallon wheeled carts. Over the next two months the county will be distributing 55,000 of these new larger carts to residential properties in preparation for its new curbside collection contract, which will replace the current dual stream collection program.
4. Where did the author get the 2012 figure for 100% diversion of waste ineligible for WTE (Joan calls it a "small amount" - that's 10-20% from what I've read)? I thought the start of the article was "just the facts?"
This answer can be found in the response given for #2 above.
5. The need for 900 tons per day (TPD) capacity isn't supported by the article, and from my own calculations factoring in population projections only decreases that argument. And - if 900 TPD is good - why not 3,000 TPD? 5,000 TPD?
The county's 900 TPD fraction of the 1,500 TPD regional WTE project is based on the capacity needed to meet the current and future waste disposal needs of Frederick County's current and future residents, assuming that the county will be able to sustain a 60% recycling rate after 2024. Also see answer to Question 3 above. There is no crystal ball; so, yes, educated assumptions will be made.
6. There is no *requirement* to run the WTE facility at efficient levels, but then what impact does that make to the economic model (tipping fees, ferrous metal recovery, electricity) that seems to be the sole justification for building a large, expensive WTE?
The WTE alternative has been modeled based on various waste volume and energy production possibilities. The size of the proposed WTE is a result of the regional approach to the project. Frederick County was looking at WTE options at the same time Carroll County was considering it. It makes perfect sense to build one larger facility instead of two separate ones and enjoy the economies of scale.
What may be surprising to some is that the two governments were able to see the advantages of these economies and act on them by pursuing the regional concept. Both counties will have waste disposal responsibilities and costs for their residents forever. The money for these disposal services can be transferred, along with their waste, to companies out of the county and out of the state, or that same money can be used to pay for their own disposal facilities and their operation.
I'm not a believer in the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) approach. I believe in responsibility for our own waste and its disposal and - with that - responsible recycling, not recycling just for the sake of feeling or looking good.
7. The author (Ms. McIntyre) also seems to fail to recognize that while WTE will reduce landfill usage, so will improved continued transport (anyone see fuel prices lately) and reduction/recycling - the questions (for me) is what are the more cost effective approaches to use?
Would this question have been asked a month ago when gas was $4 per gallon? Although fuel prices have recently retreated, long term diesel fuel prices will be a major factor in the cost of out-of-state landfill use, not to mention the possibility that those states may one day refuse our waste. The WTE project looks to address our residents' waste disposal needs long term. That's the broader/bigger picture. What will diesel prices be in 2015 or 2020?
Usually the county's elected officials and staff are criticized for not planning long term; so, now that they are doing long term planning, they are criticized for that, too. It seems to be a no-win situation. In my discussions I've never been able to understand a definitive answer that would ever satisfy WTE opponents. Zero waste cannot be accomplished; so provide an alternative viable cost-effective solution if you don't like this one. Don't tell me what you don't like and then expect me to fix it for you. It's easy to find fault; the success is in finding the solutions.
8. Looks like a lot of trucks for Frederick County coming and going in many directions, if the WTE facility is at the McKinney site near the Monocacy Battlefield south of Frederick- and the above scenarios as described in #13 and 14 (of the November 6 column) take place.
Trash trucks already drive all over Frederick County, back and forth, from individual properties to the county's landfill.
Transporting the 900 tons-per-day of Frederick County trash requires about 40 tractor trailers on the road hauling it from the Reich's Ford Road facility to Virginia and Pennsylvania landfills.
Frederick County trash trucks can haul directly to a WTE facility located in Frederick County, eliminating the 40-or-so transfer trucks that would be associated with transfer operations. Trash brought in from Carroll County (at 600 TPD) would require about 27 truck loads per day, or 13 less tractor trailers than what would be used to transfer trash out of the county.
State Highway Administration traffic counts for Maryland Route 85 during 2007 reflect an average of 23,450 vehicles per day between I-70 and I-270; 17,740 vehicles per day between I-270 and Crestwood Blvd; and 15,530 vehicles per day between Crestwood Blvd and English Muffin Way. If all county trash trucks directly hauled to the McKinney location and Carroll County's waste arrived in tractor trailers, the amount of traffic on MD Route 85 would increase between 0.8 and 1.2%.
This contribution is very small compared to the many other commercial and industrial facilities in that area. Furthermore, unlike the other commercial and industrial facilities in the area, this increase would actually be offset by a significant decrease in traffic along the Reich's Ford Road corridor from I-70 to the county's landfill and transfer station.
The Anti-Incinerator Group and the Zero Waste people have all had their say numerous times. Now is the time for the somewhat silent majority to speak up and encourage our county commissioners to move forward and solve this problem, rather than more talk. I hope those opposing a WTE facility understand the answer is not standing still. We must move forward without delay. If you aren't part of the solution, you are the problem.
I'd suggest my readers print out these last two articles along with their own questions and attend the Board of County Commissioners meeting tomorrow (Tues. Nov. 18, 2008) 1:30 P. M. at Winchester Hall, 18 East Church Street in Frederick.
'til next time . . .