PFAS compounds have been used for decades in everyday materials, such as cookware, cosmetics, packaging, outdoor clothing, and firefighting materials. Since they are widely used and the products disposed of, the compounds now exist throughout our environment and have the potential to contaminate composting material.
Legislation and regulations aimed at curbing PFAS are well-intentioned but put the responsibility on waste management and operations such as composting that reuse material to avoid disposing of valuable organic resources in landfills and incinerators. Why not place the responsibility with the sources of PFAS instead?
The diversion of food waste and biosolids from US landfills to composting avoids approximately 2.7 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions from the atmosphere annually. Organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all recognize the importance of composting with benefits above and beyond lowering carbon footprints.
The US Composting Council is posting helpful information for communities with composting operations or considering composting on its website. The Council recently called for bans on products containing synthetic chemical compounds known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) (perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS).
The City Council of the City of Lincoln, Nebraska, recently approved a four-year service agreement with SCS Engineers for comprehensive environmental solutions and technology supporting the Solid Waste Management Division and Lincoln Water System.
The contract provides professional engineering and technical support for the City’s two Solid Waste Management Facilities, located on Bluff Road and North 48th Street in Lincoln. Modern landfills such as these contain complex systems to protect the health of nearby communities and the environment. Lincoln’s Solid Waste Management Division uses SCS professionals’ expertise and proprietary software for air quality and gas collection and control systems (GCCS), operations, monitoring, and maintenance. These environmental services keep the landfills fully compliant with regulatory requirements while aligning with the City’s system performance goals and anticipated operational and maintenance activities.
The City is using SCSeTools® software designed for landfills to support managing the monitoring data to gauge operational health continually. The firm’s comprehensive environmental services include sampling and monitoring groundwater, stormwater at both facilities, and leachate analysis at the Bluff Road Landfill.
SCS assists with scheduled testing and reporting to federal, state, and local agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Nebraska’s Department of Environment and Energy, and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. Primarily these public reports cover monitoring summaries, statistical analyses of analytical results, and review of emission sources, factors, and calculations associated with the GCCS. They also include greenhouse gas reports, estimates, Title V permit requirements and documentation, NPDES General Permit support, and Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans.
Michael Miller, an SCS vice president and one of the firm’s environmental due diligence experts, said,” We’re privileged that the City of Lincoln entrusts us to partner with its professionals to maintain the landfills’ safe and efficient operations. The Solid Waste Management Division and Lincoln Water System support the citizens with essential services and the environment; we’re honored to assist.”
What is your title and responsibilities at SCS Engineers?
My title at SCS Engineers is “Project Professional.” In the Southeast region, we have something called “Assistant Project Managers,” which is not an official title. However, as the name suggests, the position entails helping the project manager run the project. My responsibilities include:
What attracted you to join SCS?
While completing my Master of Environmental Engineering, most of my classes were either water or wastewater-related. I had heard of SCS Engineers; from what I had heard and seen, it was focused heavily on landfill engineering. As a millennial, I did not have a positive outlook on landfills; I was interested in the environmental remediation of properties. Luckily, I was in a restaurant and ran into Eddy Smith, Senior Vice President of Client Success. We went over my career goals and the projects at SCS. I applied for a job, and the rest is history!
What attracted me initially to SCS was working in Environmental Services. I have been with SCS for over three years now and have expanded into sustainable materials management (SMM), which is interesting and good for communities and the environment. I’m also eager to build a more comprehensive knowledge of using what was once waste to renewable energy sources and clean-burning fuel. Solid waste management and landfills are fascinating, more than I ever imagined. SMM, renewable energy, remediation, and landfill operations are interconnected and essential for keeping people and communities safe and thriving.
What is your favorite part of working at SCS?
The people at SCS! We hire humble, hungry, and smart people. The knowledge pool is incredible, and everyone is always willing to help, no matter what part of the country you’re working. People are just a phone call away.
What do you feel is your greatest achievement or contribution to date?
I am working on a 500-acre landfill redevelopment project divided into four quadrants. Our client completed construction on one quadrant with nine buildings. We’ve received closure for eight of the nine buildings and anticipate closure for the remaining building soon. I take pride in supporting them to accomplish the closure and earn the environmental approvals safer and faster because of my combined team’s expertise and experience.
What is challenging for you as a YP?
Learning to manage my time was the greatest challenge. Regularly, I would stay late to work on projects and completing my tasks. It wasn’t a sustainable balance in my life. I said yes to everything assigned instead of letting the project manager know that my plate was full. Now, by planning my day better, prioritizing, and giving project managers realistic deadlines. I found the balance that works, and I am more productive.
What has helped with your success?
The support of management and our team at SCS has made me successful. If I have an issue with a project or unsure of the direction I need to take, I know I can rely on my team to help. There have been times when colleagues have dropped what they are doing to help me finish a project on time and within budget.
Do you have a favorite aspect of SCS’s Young Professionals Program, and describe your role as Chair?
My favorite aspect of the YP program is the mentorship program that the committee relaunched in 2020. It is such an incredible opportunity as a YP to be guided by an experienced professional. They have stood where we are today, and getting to learn from their experience is invaluable; our YPs take advantage of it.
I enjoy my role as the Chair of the YP program; I spend my energies organizing by:
What are your favorite hobbies outside of SCS?
I am a bit of a nerd, so my friends and I play Dungeons and Dragons every week. I also like DIY projects with arts and crafts – I made wall décor out of cardboard when I moved into my house!
What advice do you have for others getting into STEM fields?
When I was younger, I was advised not to go into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields by my career advisors and teachers because they did not think I would be successful. In fact, because of their advice, I tried out classes in the non-STEM field like history, commerce, geography, and I did not enjoy them. I was still intrigued by the STEM field, so I listened to my gut and look where I am today! STEM is not biased. My advice would be not to let anyone tell you that STEM is not for you. If you want to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, just do it!
Scientists and experts agree that climate change is a present-day threat to communities across the U.S., manifesting in both predictable and unpredictable ways. As detailed in the National Climate Assessment Vol. 4 (NCA4), coastal storms are increasing in strength and frequency, forest fires are becoming much larger and more destructive, annual precipitation is changing and increasing in variability, and widespread flooding is becoming more common both in the interior of the nation and along the coasts.
These changes present complex challenges to the waste management industry that must be addressed and planned for. For example, one challenge is an increasing frequency of large-scale weather events and natural disasters, which are creating more debris that must be managed and which affects the characteristics of landfilled waste. Landfill design needs to incorporate precipitation changes and increased threats due to weather variability, flooding, and sea-level rise. Precipitation changes affect gas generation rates and require a diligent reaction to maintain effective gas collection. Because of weather pattern changes, risks of cover material erosion and swales have increased for landfills in both wet and dry climates, which may require stronger natural caps or the use of emerging technologies for alternate cover. Additionally, landfills are affected by an increase in the variability of precipitation and rapid changes between weather extremes.
It is clear that waste management facilities must adapt to these changes in addition to scenario building for pandemics to maintain effective operations. Adaptations available include making changes to landfill design and planning, such as incorporating precipitation changes into the modeling of leachate and gas generation or increasing the distance between the bottom liner and groundwater.
Systems should be regularly evaluated and areas needing repairs should be corrected quickly and diligently. Gas generation models should be updated regularly and collection systems need to be expanded or adjusted to account for precipitation increases or decreases.
More frequent and intense storms are creating challenges for cover material management, liquids management, and maintaining slope stability. Facilities should implement innovative uses of both existing technology and new or emerging technologies.
Communities with waste management facilities should include waste management infrastructure in emergency management plans, including maintaining landfills and collections operations and using landfills as both temporary debris storage and as an option for final disposal.
Since climate change effects vary by region and locale, many facilities are developing a specific plan for adaptation and management. To reduce the inevitable costs of adaptation and maintain responsiveness to weather changes, a reactive approach is being abandoned in favor of a proactive approach.
About the Author: Jacob Shepherd is a Senior Project Professional specializing in air compliance and reporting within EPA Region III. He is experienced in environmental engineering, air compliance, renewable energy, landfill and landfill gas engineering, and environmental services throughout the mid-Atlantic region, and is a licensed P.E. in Virginia.
Resources and Recovery
Get started with these resources and recovery success studies; click to read, download, or share each:
Planning for Natural Disaster Debris – help for communities to develop or revise a disaster debris management plan. Many aspects of disaster debris planning can be relevant to communities demolishing abandoned residential buildings and remediating properties.
Guidance about Planning for Natural Disaster Debris – much of the construction or demolition waste can be recovered and recycled. SCS Engineers designs and builds these facilities so we can help locate the nearest C&D debris recyclers as part of your plan.
Planning Financial Response and Recovery – the SCS Management Services™ team offers services to support financial planning and to quickly access budget and operational financial impacts. Eliminate concerns about the upcoming fiscal year expectations and anticipated medium-term impacts of pandemics and natural hazards on local government operations and revenue streams. Address issues such as:
California leads the way in the United States with a GHG MRP and C&T program that continues to grow and link with other jurisdictions. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) Market Readiness Proposal initially started with basic facility reporting and has grown and adopted to include multiple non-facility specific sectors of the economy, as dictated by the growing initiatives and programs that CARB joins or creates. However, as the program applicability may change, the basics tenants of MRP stay the same with reporting and verification at the center of the program.
By having CARB’s C&T Program as a separate program, entities have to navigate if they have a compliance obligation and how they will meet that obligation in addition to complying with reporting requirements. Entities can reduce their emissions by switching to biomass-derived fuels or meeting their compliance obligation by using CARB-provided allowances or purchasing allowances and/or compliance offset credits.
As CARB’s programs grow, it will likely trigger similar growth in the western North American GHG programs and regional agreements. As discussed, Québec’s C&T system, which is linked with CARB’s program, has been growing and is being used to meet the Canadian federal GHG rules that are being put in place. Ontario’s program was annulled but shows that the discussion on how best to reduce GHG emission is a topic that continues to thrive, and we may see new programs developing even though some may hit some setbacks. The PCC shows that even if a Market Readiness Proposal and C&T Program is not the particular method chosen by a region to reduce emissions, many regions still see reducing GHG emissions as the future to create jobs, develop the economy, develop new infrastructure and maintain growth while protecting the environment.
About the Authors:
Cassandra Drotman Farrant is experienced in environmental consulting, specializing in environmental assessment and greenhouse gas (GHG) verification. She has participated in GHG verification projects throughout the U.S.
Raymond H. Huff is SCS Engineers’ National Expert on Greenhouse Gas. He specializes in landfill regulatory compliance; air quality/compliance issues, including GHG emissions quantification; and site assessment, remediation, and post-closure care.
Haley DeLong is experienced in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, sustainable energy, and climate dynamics. She specializes in air quality consulting and has been involved in numerous projects related to air permitting and compliance with solid waste regulations, including preparing Title V and Non-Title V permit-to-construct/operate permit applications.
SCS Staff Professional, Spencer Nichols, supports clients as a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Specialist. He earned his BA in Political Science/International Relations & Environmental Studies with a Minor in Public Policy at Tulane University. Spencer is passionate about sustainability; in high school, he volunteered at a non-profit organization working closely with community members to create organic farms on school campuses. These farm projects provide healthy food to local food banks while at the same time educating students about the environmental and social benefits of organic agriculture. Spencer also led a service trip to Latin America to help agrarian communities restore their environment after regional industrial agriculture had caused widespread degradation. Spencer became Chapter President of the non-profit Global Student Embassy (GSE) and led a group of students in fundraising and environmental efforts. During his year-long tenure, he worked on environmental and community-based initiatives in California and Nicaragua, culminating in a fully-funded scholarship program for Nicaraguan students to visit GSE Chapters in the United States.
In 2017, Spencer met SCS Senior Project Manager, Tracie Bills, through his network, and learned about the SMM work she performs for SCS clients. They stayed in touch and would occasionally meet to discuss opportunities and the evolving environmental field. When the role for a SMM Specialist opened up at SCS, Spencer landed the job! SCS Engineers was a perfect fit for his interests, education, and entrepreneurial spirit. Five months in, Spencer still loves the work. In particular, he says he appreciates working in the environmental industry and enjoys learning something new every day.
Spencer works for numerous clients and finds the variety of his work rewarding because the focus is on recycling and organics management challenges. He is gaining experience in waste management sustainability and zero waste practices, as well as managing records, producing project updates, and conducting recycling characterization studies. For one of his clients, Spencer is working to identify recycling markets for wood so the materials can be repurposed instead of buried in landfills.
Spencer also conducts outreach, customer assistance, and technical assistance for another client in Contra Costa County, California. He supports their environmental and regulatory initiatives by “educating their clients on materials management best practices to ensure improved outcomes and an excellent customer service experience for everyone involved.” His mission is to help reduce business waste while improving diversion of materials away from landfills.
To be responsive in his role and for his customers, he works in a fast-paced environment. This challenge helps him grow professionally every day. Spencer’s passion for helping businesses reduce waste in a practical manner helps him work toward his ultimate goal to impact his community in a positive way.
Spencer is contemplating enrolling in graduate school to earn a Sustainability MBA; he also wants to continue his work as an environmental consultant in the Non-Profit Sector in his free time. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and photography – all in keeping with his passion for protecting our environment for future generations.
Well done, Spencer!
Find your career at SCS Engineers – We’re always looking for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, who find working for their clients, community, and the environment a rewarding journey!
Wendell, a Senior Project Professional in the SCS Engineers Sacramento office became interested in photography 35 years ago. He had broken his ankle and needed something to do because he felt grumpy not being able to play tennis. His tennis partner loaned him a camera, some film, and his dark room.
Wendell was hooked.
Wendell’s beautiful photos capture the reason we work with our clients to protect our environment. See a few pieces of his organic work, and look for more soon.
Mr. Minshew has over 30 years of engineering experience. He specializes in civil engineering services in the planning, design, permitting, and construction management of solid and hazardous waste facilities. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in California and Nevada.
Thank you for sharing, Wendell.