County Mayor Mike Foster and five members of the county commission took a trip to Livingston last week to get a first hand look at Overton County's solid waste transfer station. During Monday night's county commission meeting, members who made the trip indicated that they were impressed with the operation and seemed to be open to the idea of developing a transfer station in DeKalb County once the current Class I landfill has reached its capacity within the next two or three years.
Under a transfer station operation, household garbage would continue to be collected at local convenience centers across the county, then loaded onto trucks and brought to the transfer station, where the garbage would be separated from recyclables and then loaded onto semi trucks and transferred to a landfill site in another county. DeKalb would contract for the garbage to be hauled out of county and for the disposal of it at a certain price per ton. The recyclables would be baled and sold.
Foster, during the Monday night meeting and in an interview with WJLE Tuesday morning, explained how Overton County's operation works. "We went up there to look at their transfer station and recycling center. We're also going to look at two or three others. In Overton County they do about twelve thousand tons a year (household garbage) and we do about fourteen thousand tons a year. They had a building there (for the solid waste transfer and a shed for storing bales of recyclables). They bring their solid waste into a centralized location, dump it and segregate it. The rest of the main garbage they load onto a truck and haul it to a commercial site and pay a fee for dumping it in there. They don't have the environmental liability of running a landfill. We're looking at this option due to all the environmental rules we have to go by," said Foster
"We were impressed with how clean the thing was (Overton County Transfer Station) and how well managed it was," said Foster. They use some inmate help to go through the materials. They contract with a hauler that backs a semi truck in. The top of the truck sets level with the floor that you dump on to. The garbage is then loaded onto the truck and its hauled away to a landfill site that is contracted to dispose of the garbage", he said.
According to Foster, DeKalb County would have fewer environmental worries about solid waste, if it had its own transfer station or contracted with some entity or company to provide the service. "Right now (at the landfill) we have to put a 40 mil plastic liner over the entire mound of dirt when you're through as well as a 60 mil liner underneath it and then you have to put dirt on top of all that. The costs have just gone through the roof in the last three or four years so we're going to look at the option of doing that (transfer station). We may still want to run a class III/IV cell that doesn't require that (so many regulations) which would be mainly for construction materials and things like that and not household garbage," said Foster
"If we do that (develop a transfer station) we don't have the expense of building a new (Class I landfill) cell which is so expensive because now you have to put a rubber liner under and over it. These environmental issues are overpowering and you have a lot of liability there," In addition, environmental regulations require the county to monitor old landfill sites for several years after they have been closed.
Should the county develop a transfer station, Foster said it would be situated on about a four acre site somewhere in the county. "Ideally it would be better if it were centrally located but we would have room at the (existing) landfill. We would also probably want to keep a Class III/IV cell for construction materials. We've got two or three years to make this decision," said Foster.
Convenience sites would still be required throughout the county and residents could continue to bring their household garbage there or directly to the transfer station. "We would still have some convenience sites out in the county but maybe not as many. Right now we have twelve sites. We would still have to turn in to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) how much we bring in, how much we recycle, and what we dispose of. We'd probably go to mainly compactor cans (at convenience sites) where you can get eight or ten tons of garbage in one can rather than the open tops. Then you bring it (household garbage) into a transfer station. Dump it out. You have people there that pull out the cardboard, the metal, the plastics, and some of the things that you can recycle and then you dump the household garbage into a semi truck. You pull the recyclables out and put them in boxes and take them to another shed and bale them into bales of about 1300 pounds apiece. Meanwhile the garbage you put in that semi truck, you pay some landfill to take it and dispose of it that way you don't have to have a Class I landfill. So its hauled and disposed of, then you bale your recyclables and put them into a storage shed until you get enough for a load or two and sell them to some agency or company that buys it (recyclables)," said Foster.
The county commission Monday night voted to seek a grant to purchase a new baler for reclying purposes. "As we talked about Monday night, we're applying for a grant to get a baler where we can get back into this (recycling) process. Before we had contracted with two different guys, but they fell on hard times when cardboard went to twelve dollars a ton. It costs probably $75 (a ton) to handle it and bale it. We got out of that business because they were supplying the balers. Now that its back up to a good price, I think we can get back into it," said Foster
In the meantime, Foster said he and members of the county commission plan to visit other counties that have transfer stations. "We're probably going to go to Crossville soon. We'll also probably go to Woodbury. Crossville has a transfer station but they don't own it. Its owned by a subsidiary of Waste Management and they built the transfer station. Cumberland County just brings their garbage there and dumps it. They then pay them (Waste Management) a fee to handle it from that point on. We want to look at both scenarios so we can figure out which one best suits us. Depending on the costs involved, I personally would rather do the subsidiary where somebody else builds the facility and we just carry materials to them. That way we would not be out that initial cost. There's a lot of good benefits to that. They would have more experience in running that than we would so it just seems like a better fit," said Foster.