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News Flash: Don't Be the last to Know!

Article from The Bulletin newspaper, Bend, Oregon


Saturday, August 1, 2003 - The Bulletin   Bend, Oregon

Crook County Landfill looks to hydromulch

By Ernestine Bousquet
The Bulletin

In the world of garbage, space is money.  The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) requires landfills to bury exposed garbage at the end of each day with six inches of soil in order to contain waste, reduce fire hazards and prevent birds or rodents from digging into the garbage.  But the dirt takes up space that could be better used for trash.  As a result, some garbage sites, such as the Crook County Landfill, are considering a process of spraying hydromulch instead of dumping dirt on garbage to cover waste areas each day.  By switching, Crook County could accommodate more garbage at its landfill.  It could also help extend the life of its new waste pit, or cell, which was unveiled last month.  The hydromulching technique, often used to plant grass, involves spraying a thick mixture of water and a mulch over an area from a motorized machine that has a nozzle and a tank.  The mulch used at landfills contains recycled paper, wood products, binding agents and a fire retardant that forms a quarter-inch to half-inch layer that hardens over the waste.  Alan Keller, the supervisor for the Crook County Landfill, said using a hydromulch system would save time, labor and dirt.  The landfill uses about 180 to 240 cubic yards of dirt a day, seven days a week.

DESCHUTES COUNTY'S garbage site also uses hydromulch system

It takes up to three hours to cover a 2,500-5,000 sf waste site with dirt, Keller said.  Spraying hydromulch would cut the labor time down to 30 minutes, he estimated. This will save our dirt source," Keller said.  " Dirt will run out pretty soon and we'll have to start looking around for other dirt."  To see how well the system works, Keller has to look no further than Deschutes County's garbage site, Knott Landfill, which has been using a hydromulch process since last October in a test.  Chad Centola, the operations manager for Knott Landfill, said he has been satisfied with the hydromulch material so far. It has withstood strong winds, takes only 5 to 10 minutes to apply over a 7,000 to 10,000 s. f. working area and saves the landfill's dirt for other uses.  "This spray material is a space saver for us."  Centola said. "The more we can use , the longer the landfill can operate.  And it's a lot less labor."  Centola said that the hydromulch has performed well under rainy and snowy conditions thus far.  Hydromulch materials is one of the alternative daily waste covers to dirt approved by the DEQ, according to Don Bramhall, a natural resource specialist with the department's solid waste program.  And it seems to be gaining popularity because dirt, like space, is a precious commodity for a landfill.

"It costs money to move dirt, dirt uses landfill space and the landfill space has an economic value." Bramhall said.  "Looking  at the practical side, If you're putting down a six-inch layer of dirt, you can't put garbage in. Over time, that adds up to a lot of lost garbage volume." 

Hydromulch also comes with a price tag.  Centola, of Deschutes County's landfill, estimated it spends about $150 to $175 per day on mulching projects and uses about 14 bags per application.  Keller, Crook County's landfill supervisor, is considering a hydromulch machine that will cost $34,000.  he said the mulching product would cost $14 a bag and he expects to use an average of five bags per application, which would cost the landfill about $70 a day. 

It's money that can be easily recouped, according to Arman Kluehe, Owner of Portland-based Emerald Seed and Supply, a distributor that sells hydromulch product and equipment to landfills.  Kluehe estimated that a landfill such as Crook County's loses up to $1 million worth of space a year by using dirt as a daily cover.  On his company Web site, Kluehe estimated that using a quarter- to half inch of hydromulch layer instead of a six-inch dirt layer over a half acre site could generate roughly $9,000 a day in added revenue for a landfill, even after factoring in the cost of the hydromulch machine and product.  The calculations are based on the value of space lost when dirt takes the place of waste, Kluehe said.  Mike Mohan, a Crook County commissioner, said a hydro mulch system would essentially pay for itself because the landfill would have more space for garbage instead of dirt.  "Its' an efficient way to manage what we have," Mohan said.  "If we can extend the life of the new cell even by two years, that's a substantial savings to the taxpayer."  The Crook County Court is expected to approve the purchase of a hydromulch machine at its next meeting, on Wednesday, Aug. 6.

Ernestine Bousquet, The Bulletin


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