A solid-waste transfer station is more than a mere shed into which solid waste is unceremoniously dumped. At its best, it is a well-oiled machine, thoughtfully designed and manned by a conscientious staff with an eye toward efficiency, safety, and environmental compliance.
Each year, the Solid Waste Association of North America recognizes three transfer stations that have demonstrated technically and economically sound solid-waste management, and a commitment to public health and the environment. The gold and silver winners of the 2005 Transfer Station Excellence Awards offer a wealth of advice for solid waste professionals looking to improve operations at an existing transfer station, or to start a new facility from the ground up.
After the case for a new transfer station has been made, permits approved, and site selected, designers must craft plans for a facility that is capable of meeting the significant demands placed on it by the communities it serves—now, and for years to come.
Excellence By Design
The centerpiece of the year-old San Tan Transfer Station in Mesa, Ariz.—this year's gold Excellence Award winner—is a 30,000-square-foot, pre-engineered steel building with a concrete tipping floor. Run by Houston-based Waste Management Inc., the station sits in Maricopa County, where the population expanded by nearly 38% from 1990 to 2003. Because the facility is sited in one of the fastest-growing regions of the United States, planners needed the facility to be flexible enough to change along with the communities it serves.
According to Vince Murphy, director of operations for post-collection facilities for Waste Management's Arizona market area, the San Tan transfer station is positioned to accommodate shifting conditions. "Although the current waste stream is approximately 750 tons per day, the transfer station is designed for 2500 tons per day," said Murphy. "As a result, we are well-situated to serve the needs of the East Valley's residents, businesses, and communities."
The transfer station opened for business in August 2004. The existing design includes plans to expand—when the need arises-—with a residential drop-off area situated in such a way that residents and small haulers will be kept separate from larger collection vehicles visiting the site. Also, the station's 20-acre property was selected for its close proximity the San Tan Freeway. When the road is completed next year, transfer trailers will be able to divert their routes from the surface streets they now travel and rely solely on state and interstate highways on their 53-mile journey to the Butterfield Station Landfill.
When opened in 1994, the Addison County Solid Waste District Transfer Station in Middlebury, Vt.—winner of the silver Excellence Award—also had been built with a degree of flexibility in mind. While the 19 municipalities of the district have experienced more modest growth than the San Tan region, changes in the area brought about the need for alterations at the station, mandating an ambitious redesign last year. The site is narrow, with a forest bordering one side of the facility. Because physical expansion would be challenging, the redesign team was charged with doing more with less.
"We focused on flexibility and customer care in the redesign and operation of the facility," said Teri Kuczynski, district manager. "The facility now accomplishes a great variety of activities within a compact area, while providing segregated service areas for commercial and residential customers."
The redesign of the facility, which currently handles 26,243 tons of waste annually, managed to pack a number of enhancements into the relatively small station (the tipping building is only 9200 square feet, and the entire operation is housed on 9.8 acres). The staging area for residents and businesses at the front of the site now includes a hopper area; queuing area; scrap-metal tipping; weigh station; hazardous waste center; a station that accepts waste oil, filters, and antifreeze; and a special waste drop-off area.
While the transfer station has changed significantly, managers continue to keep an eye on the future. "An important goal is to remain flexible, so that when new technologies or mandates come along, we can accommodate them," said Kuczynski.