If you have not visited the Augusta Solid Waste & Recycling Facility (aka “the Landfill”) in a while, be ready for a pleasant surprise. The landfill has undergone some major capital improvements that not only enhance the appearance, improve their customer service, and accommodate their growing waste stream well into the future. Operated by the Environmental Services Department, under the direction of Mark Johnson, the Department operates the largest Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) landfill in the Central Savannah River Area. The landfill sits on approximately 1,200 acres, with 303 acres currently permitted by the State, for MSW.
In 1994, the County completed construction on a lined landfill (II-C-Phase I) that fulfilled the Subtitle D requirements set forth by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD) and waste placement began. In 1997, the City of Augusta and Richmond County consolidated their governments; which provided more efficient and cost effective services to their citizens, including solid waste services. Construction of II-C Phase II was completed and waste placement began in 1999. Also during this time, a recycling center for tire and metal waste was added along with an inert landfill for yard waste, trees and other natural debris in order to divert materials out of the landfill and prolong the life of the cells. Phase III included a 16-acre cell constructed in 2005; a 10-acre cell constructed in 2007; and a 27-acre adjacent cell completed in the winter of 2010. All of the lined cells utilize the standard Subtitle D regulation liner system that includes a compacted subbase of 24” of clay; 60 mil high density polyethylene liner; a leachate collection piping system and a 24” layer of protective cover. At current volumes, Augusta-Richmond County’s landfill has a life expectancy in excess of 100 years.
The ARC MSW landfill currently serves over 60,000 households and receives approximately 1,300 tons of waste daily. The Environmental Services Department has contracted with two hauling companies to handle collections with Inland Services collecting for 36,000 residences and Advanced Disposal for 28,000. New ARC-branded waste container carts were distributed that have a special bar code that helps the Department determine where a cart belongs if it is re-located from the house it was originally issued.
The Solid Waste Department has been very progressive in their efforts to improve services to their customers and have set high productivity and efficiency standards in order to meet and exceed their needs. The capital improvements to the facility over the past 15 years have included the construction of the new 27-acre cell; a re-design of the stormwater detention ponds for more effective filtering and discharge from the property; a scale complex; a customer convenience center; and a maintenance/administration building, have truly transformed the facility from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. The customer convenience center allows a safe and convenient disposal experience for the noncommercial, residential customer by diverting the small vehicle traffic away from the MSW working face. As well, the spacious customer-friendly area allows the Department to transfer single-stream recycling to larger facilities. The convenience center operates like a mini-transfer station with all garbage and recyclables received in 48’ trailers to be transported to the appropriate destination. The scale complex is another impressive improvement that is moving toward a totally automated weigh-in and weigh-out capabilities which records pertinent data from a magnetic reader adhered to the hauler’s windshield. The driver’s safety and paperwork processing is enhanced because he never has to get out of his vehicle. To improve the speed that the hauler can get in and out of the facility, the complex has two scales for incoming traffic and one for outgoing traffic.
The landfill staff is well trained in daily landfill operations, equipment operations and safety procedures. Of the 40 employees, many are Certified Landfill Operators, which assures that that facility is operating under the rules of the Ga EPD.
Daily activities include receiving the waste into the landfill, then compacting the heaps of refuse with the workhorse compactors and then covering them with a layer of soil. This process is repeated in layers of garbage then soil with the maximum lift eventually reaching 100 to 120 feet above the cell floor before the cell is closed. As the trash decomposes over time, a liquid called leachate filters through the sand, flows across the synthetic liner and collects in engineered low spots (called sumps) from where it is pumped directly to the local wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) for biological treatment. There is a 150,000 gallon leachate storage tank on-site to provide leachate storage in the unlikely event the WWTP temporarily cannot accept the leachate. The solid waste facility has remained in consistent compliance with the state’s regulatory requirements by routinely monitoring ground and surface water, stormwater, soil conditions and methane gas. Since 2000, the methane gas generated at the landfill has been used as an alternative energy source. The landfill gas-to energy (LFGE) facility pulls methane gas from the cells, processes it and sends it through a 3 ½ mile pipeline to a kaolin processing plant that uses the alternative energy source to power the kilns that dry the kaolin. The LFGE process is an effective re-use of a by-product of waste decomposition.