Leachate cannon saving landfill money

ALPENA – The Montmorency- Oscoda- Alpena Solid Waste Management Authority has spent years and thousands of dollars disposing of leachate and invested even more in plans to find ways to reduce its cost. In August it found the solution to its leachate disposal dilemma.

Last summer the landfill board approved spending $185,000 for a water cannon that would syphon the water from the secondary lagoon at the landfill in Atlanta and spray it in a mist form, which causes the leachate to be evaporated. Since the machine was purchased and put into operation, the landfill has saved over $200,000 in leachate handling and treatment.

Administrator Sandy Cunningham said since leachate hauling began in 1990, more than 4.5 million gallons of it has been removed from the landfill. Since August there already has been 365,000 gallons disposed of via evaporation. Cunningham said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is so impressed by the machine that it has allowed the landfill to modify its leachate disposal plan. She said the DEQ had criteria in place for when the machine could run, and when it needed to be shut down.

The DEQ had concerns that if it were operated in cold temperatures the leachate could be turned into snow after being sprayed. During its use this winter the DEQ saw it was unlikely and changed the operation orders.

“We will be able to run it until the temperature dips to less than five degrees, or until winds reach 25 miles per hour,” Cunningham said. “We can’t operate it when it is raining. We are able to run it overnight if need be, as long as we have someone on site. It is amazing what it has done.”

The savings from not having to pay for hauling and treatment costs has benefited the landfill and the counties already. Cunningham said it has allowed the board to purchase a new tractor and a side-by-side to utilize around the dump. The landfill also approved increasing its contribution to the counties for providing financial assurance for the landfill.

“We raised it from $75,000 to $100,000,” Cunningham said. “The board is trying really hard to increase this every year and with the savings we are seeing it makes it possible.”

Although there have been some purchases made that may have not been done in the past, Cunningham said the commissioners still are being prudent with the extra money in the budget.

“They are being responsible and aren’t doing a lot until we find out what happens with our coved Energy Resources and the gas plant,” Cunningham said. “If that happens then that will also benefit us, because then we won’t have to do things like build a new cell, which would be more than $1 million.”

Cunningham said there is about eight years of capacity left on the current cells.

Word about the machine and the savings it is providing the landfill is spreading throughout the industry in Michigan. The landfill is being featured at the Engineering Society of Detroit conference. She said she also has been contacted by other landfills that want to know more about the water cannon and the leachate process.

“We have given five demonstrations to other landfills and some are in the process of moving ahead in purchasing their own,” Cunningham said. “We had spent so much money over years doing studies and trying to find a way to better handle the leachate and here it was a simple answer. It really is something else that something so easy solved our biggest problem.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com