ATLANTA -The number one expense for the Montmorency-Oscoda-Alpena Solid Waste Management Authority for many years has been the cost of hauling and treatment of the leachate produced at the landfill.
The landfill has made many alterations to the site, as well as its procedures to cut the cost and have the leachate disposed of in a safe manner, but the effect on the budget has always been large.
Last month the landfill board approved spending $175,000 to buy a water cannon in which the leachate is pumped and then sprayed into the air in a mist form. Before the water can hit the ground it evaporates and as a result the need for costly hauling and treatment have diminished dramatically.
Administrator Sandy Cunningham said the new equipment has been used for the last 16 days and the landfill already has seen a significant savings. She said the new tool has also freed up more room in the pair of 2 million gallon lagoons that were built to house the leachate.
"It is really amazing. We have already saved $33,000, which equates to about 590,000 gallons of leachate in just a touch over two weeks," Cunningham said. "We are anticipating about a three month payback if things continue how they are now. We were expecting it to be six months, but it has been doing more than even we expected."
Cunningham said the machine must be manned while in use and can't be operated when the weather turns cold. She said there are measures that can be taken to change the schedule, depending on the weather.
"The DNR gave us a permit to operate it April until December, but if the weather is favorable we can request permission for it to maybe run it longer if need be," Cunningham said. "We can also add a second shift on the machine if we need to should we get a great deal of precipitation and it won't be a big deal because of the saving it is given us. If we can't run it, we still have more than enough storage capacity in the lagoons to hold the leachate until spring."
Word about the machine, which was purchased through Neptune Wash & Innovative Solutions, has spread to other landfills that also struggle with the cost and hassle of handling leachate. Cunningham said the landfill in Atlanta is the first to have one up and running, but many more landfills are expected to follow suit.
"We are the only one in Michigan actually running, but there have been 13 others who have seen the demonstration," Cunningham. "We have had Waste Management out here twice to see it operate and they are very interested in moving toward using them as well."
Cunningham said in past years the landfill could pay as much as $300,000 annually to have the leachate moved from the landfill and treated at the water plant in Alpena. She said because the landfill won't need to utilize the plant as much, it would result in about an $11,000 loss in revenue monthly. She said a portion of the savings the landfill will see could be distributed to the counties, or used to make further improvements or pay down debt at the landfill.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.