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Landfill Reclamation of Cells 1 and 2 (FAQs)

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1. What is landfill reclamation?

The Environmental Protection Agency defines landfill reclamation as the process whereby old landfill disposal cells are excavated to recover recyclable items.

2. What are the typical components of landfill reclamation?

The following elements are typically performed as part of landfill reclamation:

  • Excavation - An excavator removes the content of the landfill cell.  A front-end loader then organizes the excavated materials into manageable stockpiles and separates out bulky material, such as appliances and lengths of steel cable.
  • Soil Separation (Screening) - A trommel (a revolving cylindrical sieve) or vibrating screens separate soil (including the cover material) from solid waste in the excavated material. The size and types of screen used depends on the end use of the recovered materials. For example, if the reclaimed soil is used as landfill cover, a 2.5-inch screen is typically used for separation. Trommel screens are more effective than vibrating screens for basic landfill reclamation. Vibrating screens, however, are smaller, easier to set up, and more mobile.
  • Processing for Reclamation of Recyclable Material or Disposal - Depending on local conditions, either the soil and/or the waste may be reclaimed. The separated soil can be used as fill material or as daily cover in a sanitary landfill. The excavated waste can be processed to remove valuable components (e.g., steel and aluminum).

3. What are the potential benefits of landfill reclamation? 

General benefits of landfill reclamation include:

  • Extending Landfill Capacity - Landfill reclamation could extend the life of the facility by removing soil and recoverable materials.
  • Generating Revenues From the Sale of Recyclable Materials - Recovered materials, such as ferrous metals, aluminum, plastic, and glass, could be sold to existing markets.
  • Lowering Operating Costs by Using Reclaimed Soil as Initial Material - Reclaimed soil could be used on site as daily cover material on other landfill cells, thus avoiding the cost of importing cover soil.
  • Retrofitting Liners and Removing Hazardous Materials - Liners and leachate collection systems can be installed at older landfills. Also, hazardous waste can be removed and managed in a more secure fashion.

4. What are the potential drawbacks of landfill reclamation? 

General drawbacks for landfill reclamation include:

  • Managing Hazardous Materials - Hazardous wastes that may be uncovered during reclamation operations, especially at older landfills, are subject to special handling and disposal requirements. Management costs for hazardous waste could be relatively high, but may reduce future liability.
  • Controlling Releases of Landfill Gases and Odors - Cell excavation raises a number of potential problems related to the release of gases. Methane and other gases, generated by decomposing wastes, could cause explosions and fires. Hydrogen sulfide gas, a highly flammable and odorous gas, could be fatal when inhaled in sufficient concentrations.

5. What was development plan for the reclamation of Cells 1 and 2 at the Collier County Landfill?

  • Removal of materials placed in Cell 1 and Cell 2.
  • Separation of soil and solid waste.
  • Preparation of excavated area in accordance with landfill development practices and permit conditions.
  • Excavated soil stored on-site for future use.
  • Excavated waste screened to remove and recycle suitable material with the remaining solid waste placed in lined landfill cell on site.

6. Who did the County hire to develop a Reclamation Plan for Cells 1 and 2 and what did their  evaluation include?

Professional Service Industries, Inc. (PSI) was hired and developed an evaluation of the physical and chemical characteristics of the materials, which was submitted to the County on June 24, 2005.

7. What was the status of Cells 1 and 2 at the time of PSI’s Report?

Cells 1 and 2 were unlined and were not permitted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to receive additional solid waste after 1979. Cells 1 and 2 also did not meet current design standards for floor elevation, liner, cover, landfill gas collection, and leachate collection under the FDEP laws, which made Cells 1 and 2 a concern for the County.

8. What were the critical areas of discussion for the reclamation of Cells 1 and 2?

  • the vertical profile of the cells
  • gas sampling evaluation
  • vector evaluation
  • leachate evaluation
  • classification of excavated material

9. How much area was reclaimed as a result of the reclamation process?

22.5 acres 

10. What options for reclamation was identified in the PSI Report?

Option 1: called for an uninterrupted approach with a projected project schedule that would require approximately 2.6 years from the time of the notice to proceed. This time estimate was contingent upon no major delays due to natural disasters such as hurricanes or other unforeseeable circumstances. The Reclamation Plan did not identify the benefits or drawbacks associated with this option and the cost estimate for this option was approximately $14.7M.

Option 2: called for a phased approach to the reclamation, factoring for concerns with weather-related delays, and potential lower screening rates with wet material due to exposure to severe weather. The phased approach divided the work into four equal segments of approximately seven months each over a 4-year period.

11. What benefits were identified with Option 2 over Option 1?

The segments in Option 2 were scheduled from October through April, to avoid the rainy/hurricane season. The benefits identified with Option 2 included:

  • Reduced delays from inclement weather.
  • Substantially avoided hurricane season.
  • Dryer material resulting in generally higher production rates.
  • Screening equipment rotated out before major breakdowns occur.
  • Need for layered approach was reduced or eliminated. Leachate was generally eliminated as a concern.
  • Incremental budgeting more accurately reflected future costs for equipment, fuel, and labor.
  • Spreading the cost of reclamation over a period of four fiscal years.
  • Estimated cost approximately $860,000 less than Option 1.

12. What were potential drawbacks associated with Option 2 compared to Option 1?

The Reclamation Plan identified potential drawbacks to Option 2 as:

  • Increased mobilization costs for transporting equipment.
  • Risk that equipment might not be available when required to restart the project due to other projects.
  • Potential inability to lock-in equipment costs for the project duration.

13. Which option was recommended by PSI?

PSI recommended Option 2, the phased approach, with an estimated cost of $13.9M. The means and methods for both options were identical except for the time frame implementation.

14. Did the Landfill Operations Agreement (LOA) have provisions related to the Reclamation of Cells 1 and 2?

Sections 3.11 Remediation of Cells 1 and 2 and Section 2.27 Construction of New Cells 1 and 2 both detail requirements from the LOA, as amended, regarding the reclamation and construction of Cells 1 and 2.

15. Did the County solicit competitive proposals to perform the reclamation of Cells 1 and 2?

In accordance with Section 3.11 of the LOA, the County requested a proposal from Waste Management Inc., of Florida (WMIF), to reclaim Cells 1 a 2 for future beneficial use by the County. WMIF was non-responsive. However, WMIF did respond to the County’s Request for Proposals. WMIF was the only respondent.

16. What were the basic terms of the Agreement for Landfill Reclamation Project between Collier County and WMIF?

Project responsibilities included the following:

Collier County

  • Project management
  • Establish and monitor control benchmarks
  • Payment for services

WMIF

  • Mobilization
  • Surveying
  • Land clearing and removal of surface debris
  • Odor, stormwater and leachate management
  • CQA/CQC, materials testing and surveying
  • Excavation, sorting, screening, loading of separated materials to staging areas
  • Transfer of recyclable materials and unacceptable waste
  • Transfer of fines and residual waste
  • Documentation and reporting
  • Demobilization

17. Have other landfills been reclaimed elsewhere in the United States?

Yes, landfills have been reclaimed throughout the United States, including in Connecticut, California, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Washington.

18. Was it possible to perform a cost comparison for the work completed by WMIF to other landfill reclamations in the United States?

While a cost comparison could be performed, it was difficult to align the differences between each project and the associated costs. Every landfill has its own unique set of circumstances that affect the economics of a  project. Landfills come in different shapes and sizes. The amount of decomposition varies with climate and age; rural landfills have different compositions then urban landfills. Some landfills may have accepted more construction and demolition wastes, while others contain more industrial wastes. Some landfills have serious environmental problems while others are benign. Major factors influencing costs include landfill volume and topography; equipment parameters; soil conditions; climate; labor rates; the regulatory approval process; excavation and screening costs; sampling and remediation; development costs; the contractor's fees; material disposal and logistics; hazardous wastes disposal; and revenue from the sale of commodities.

However, one method used in evaluating the value of Cells 1 and 2 Reclamation at the Collier County Landfill was considering the impact of not proceeding with the project.

A value was associated to the landfill disposal (airspace) capacity lost by not reclaiming Cells 1 and 2. If the project did not proceed, the landfill would have reach capacity sooner. For example, let’s assume that the project would yield disposal (airspace) capacity for 150,000 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW). The County’s best available option was to use its contingency disposal contract with WMIF at their Okeechobee Landfill that specified a cost of approximately $60 per ton. The value of that capacity today is approximately $9 million. However, the per ton cost escalates each year, and the future cost of the capacity would surely be greater than it is today. The cost to reclaim Cells 1 and 2 was $8.4 million, which indicates a better value for the County, particularly when one considers the additional benefits of the gained disposal (airspace) capacity, elimination of a liability, availability of soil for use as initial cover and conformance with the LOA.