SCS Engineers is an exhibitor of the SWANA- Georgia Chapter 2024 Spring Conference at the Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa in Young Harris, GA, March 18 – 20.
The conference will have informative technical sessions with continuing education opportunities, a vendor trade show, a golf tournament, a fun run, a trail maintenance service project, a Young Professionals axe throwing event, a Membership Networking Event, a clay shooting event (“Buzzard Shoot”) and a Casino Night reception for all to enjoy.
Join SCS Engineers professionals, including our National Landfill Expert, Betsy Powers, for the Solid Waste Landfill Design Course, April 1-3 at the Pyle Center in Madison, WI.
During the course you will have the opportunity to learn about the critical factors of solid waste landfill design, operations, evolving industry issues, and economics. Learn from expert and diverse course faculty (top-flight researchers, owners at the cutting edge of evolving practice, industry experts). Get a firm grasp of the background and design specifics to compete in this industry, including industry-leading information on the principles and practices of solid waste landfill development, design, construction, operations, and management. Understand practical emerging technologies including:
This course will guide you through the development process of a successful solid waste landfill, from cradle to grave. Industry experts will share critical factors and insights. Interactive discussion and idea exchange will be emphasized. Click to learn more and enroll today.
Meet SCS Engineers professionals at the Iowa Society of Solid Waste Operations (ISOSWO)’s Spring Conference, March 14 – 15, at the Rock Island Inn & Suites in Marshalltown, Iowa.
The conference will feature networking opportunities, tours, exhibits, and educational sessions.
The engineer in Ryan Duckett tends to want to build the biggest, most top-of-the-line waste and recycling facilities whenever he can, but always what is practical for his clients. SCS’s mission states that employees adopt our clients’ environmental challenges as our own, and that includes their budgets and social goals as well.
“I appreciate that the waste management enterprises I work with are businesses and care about more than the engineering of a project. They care about the economics, and they look for guidance in both realms to get maximum value and efficiency,” says Duckett, who came to SCS Engineers as a new environmental engineering graduate. Then he went back to school for his MBA. He wanted to join both the technical and financial puzzle pieces.
“Everyone, especially local governments, is constrained by tight budgets. You have to think about the interplay between design and construction and financial feasibility,” he says.
That’s his job – to plan technically sound programs and facilities, whether new builds, upgrades, or changes in operations or services. Or it can be developing protocols for clients to tap into low-carbon fuel credits.
He’s learned to look through both developers’ and operators’ eyes to help clients accomplish what they want at budget levels they set while maximizing what they get from their programs, facilities, and systems.
“You need to make assessments and quantify details to answer questions like, what would an operator have to charge for a given service to break even? Is this service fee reasonable given market conditions? What are estimated operational costs and capital costs for an expansion? Financial analysts vet these questions, but very few of them are intimately involved in solid waste practices or engineering,” Duckett says.
A holistic approach in play
He calls the work he does integrated solid waste management, which involves understanding the entire operation and how one component affects the other, whether routing and collections, materials recovery facilities (MRFs), transfer stations, landfill gas systems, or others.
Duckett shows this holistic approach in play by explaining how grasping the way collections work helps design transfer stations. These major builds can run up to multimillions, even when project managers have the skill set and foresight to plan for efficiency and sustainability.
“You can better estimate how to design queuing space, how to design surge capacity, how to size facilities,” he explains.
“Adding, for example, an extra day’s storage capacity at a transfer station or MRF provides extra flexibility in the event of a disruption farther down the line. In an emergency, owners could potentially save significantly by having more time to identify or negotiate more economical alternatives.”
Some of the solutions he finds are simple but require thinking out of the box—literally in one situation where cardboard boxes were stockpiling at a convenience center because they didn’t fit through the slot in a single-stream receptacle. Simply creating an acceptance area only for boxes diverts multiple truckloads a week from landfills and generates thousands a year in revenue.
Then there are the major construction projects where Duckett digs deeper, such as one plan to site, design, and build a MRF. He conducted a feasibility study looking at different sites and calculated estimated operational costs and upfront capital costs for each identified site.
“We ultimately determined that by co-locating a facility at the existing landfill, the client would save over $200,000 in operating costs, with savings from scales/scale house reuse, the reduced distance of residual stream hauling, labor efficiencies, and other areas.”
In this same scenario, adding robotics for additional processing comes with anticipated savings of about $300,000 in manual sorting costs annually.
When do you recommend spending more upfront?
This question often comes up in Duckett’s world.
He finds that sometimes spending more upfront and on what’s built to last translates to substantial savings in the long run. He reflects on when a client had to replace a transfer station floor every couple of years.
“These floors take so much impact, so this is not an uncommon problem. But you can provide a huge ROI by reducing floor replacement frequency. They can run over half a million to replace properly, even for relatively small facilities,” Duckett says.
He ran budget numbers for different approaches and found in this scenario the higher-end approach, cement with additives such as fly ash, was the better deal.
“It might cost 50 percent more upfront, but the floor could last three times as long, breaking the cycle of frequent, costly replacement,” he says.
What do you recommend when budgets are so tight, there’s no cash reserve to invest?
Duckett and his team have found solutions in this scenario, too; often, the strategy is to figure out if a phased approach is possible.
“You could spend ten years waiting to generate enough funds to build infrastructure for a major project. Your citizens are missing out, so sometimes it’s best to build smaller, as soon as you need it. Then increase capacity as you can afford it.”
Expert advice from his colleagues
A very positive thing about his holistic approach is that Duckett can reach out to his colleagues who specialize in long-term financial management plans for utilities such as solid waste. This team, led by Vita Quinn, specializes in helping clients build sustainable financing models and plans.
The models help communities manage financial impacts such as COVID disruptions; make investments without burdening community budgets, and help take advantage of commodity market swings such as in the value of recycled paper. Models are useful to show community leaders and citizens the different options and what-if scenarios that make sense based on current and future conditions.
Going back to the drawing board to improve a system
Not long ago, Duckett’s team had to figure out what to do about a decal-based, pay-as-you-throw system that wasn’t working. The operator’s initial plan seemed logical and simple: residents purchase decals and place them on their bins for pick up. But some of them let their subscriptions expire. The city was losing money servicing outstanding accounts. It hired enforcement officers to check every decal for validity, which soon proved too labor-intensive.
“We found an alternative: adding fees for trash and recycling to the water and sewer bill. It’s bringing in more revenue. And the city is saving on hours spent checking thousands of decals, freeing the enforcement officers for other jobs, like bulky and yard waste enforcement,” Duckett says.
Duckett’s greatest lessons learned?
“In my seven years on the job, I have learned that the solid waste industry is complicated with a lot of intricate, moving parts that interconnect. Who would have thought trash was so complex?”
He’s also learned it’s critical to have comprehensive teams with diverse backgrounds to gather different perspectives.
“It goes back to the concept that you need more than engineering expertise to deliver that value add. That value add is important to our customers, so we strive to understand the business challenge along with the technical and social goals.”
Speaking as a young professional to other young professionals and students thinking about careers in waste management, he says: Check it out. Give it serious thought.
“I do not know of another industry that involves so many interesting disciplines: biology, hydrology, geology, engineering … even data and computer scientists.”
He shares this proposition for the young and ambitious:
“As technology advances and regulatory requirements heighten, our teams learn a lot on the job. But we appreciate our sharp graduates who bring the latest knowledge from academic settings. We depend on them to share new ways of thinking and help us solve challenging and intriguing problems.”
His motivation to get into environmental engineering evolved from his passion for the outdoors.
“I grew to appreciate conservation, which centers on doing more with less to preserve resources. Nothing is wasted in nature; everything is cyclical and gets used,” Duckett says.
“That’s what our waste system could emulate, and as a nation, we’re moving in that direction. It’s not just about reducing trash. It’s about reducing wasted effort and money spent beyond what’s necessary. It goes back to the idea of efficiency and getting the most out of something – instead of a using-disposing-buying new mentality.”
Learn more about comprehensive MRF and Transfer Station infrastructure
Yakima County, WA, won the Heroes Excellence award from the American Public Works Association. Karma Suchan, Solid Waste Manager, generously shared the news and acceptance video with John Richards in the Northwest Business Unit.
The County was nominated for its perseverance and excellent customer service during the pandemic while experiencing record-setting customer counts, tonnage, wildfires, and poor air quality conditions.
Proposed Amendments to the Coal Ash Regulations, Public Hearing Registration Open
EPA is proposing further amendments to the regulations governing the disposal of coal combustion residuals, commonly known as coal ash.
The proposal addresses two issues remanded by the courts back to EPA for action. EPA is proposing a modification to one of the criteria used to determine if coal ash is being beneficially used or would be considered disposal. The second proposed change is to the requirements for managing piles of coal ash. Other proposed changes include revisions to enhance public access to information.
In addition to accepting written comments on this proposal, EPA is holding two public hearings – one in person in Arlington, Virginia on October 2, 2019, and a second one that will be held virtually.
To learn more about this proposal and the public hearings, learn how to comment and register to speak or observe, visit: https://www.epa.gov/coalash/coal-ash-rule#July2019proposal.
Upcoming e-Manifest Fiscal Years 2020-2021 User Fees
EPA announced the new e-Manifest user fees for fiscal years 2020-2021 (October 1, 2019-September 30, 2021). These user fees are set based on the manifest usage and processing costs for each manifest type.
EPA encourages the hazardous waste industry to adopt fully-electronic manifesting as soon as possible so that industry members can take maximum advantage of the benefits and cost savings of electronic manifesting. However, EPA acknowledges that it will take time for industries and receiving facilities to fully transition to electronic manifests. EPA supports the wide adoption of electronic manifesting by the regulated community as soon as it is feasible.
For more information and to view the new user fees, visit https://www.epa.gov/e-manifest/e-manifest-user-fees-and-payment-information#2020fees.
Comment Period Open for Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) 108(b) Electric Power Industry Proposal
EPA is seeking public comment on a proposed rule not imposing financial responsibility requirements under CERCLA Section 108(b) for Electric Power Generation, Transportation, and Distribution facilities.
The comment period for the proposed changes is open for 60 days, through September 27, 2019. To learn more, view the proposal, and how to submit comments visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/proposed-action-financial-responsibility-requirements-under-cercla-section-108b-classes.
Incremental Sampling Methodology (ISM) at PCB Cleanup Sites
ISM has been shown to be a valid and effective method for determining the concentrations of contaminants, including PCBs, in heterogeneous soils when designed appropriately. This document has a brief description of ISM and provides EPA’s policy of reviewing and approving site-specific applications to use ISM at PCB cleanup sites: https://www.epa.gov/pcbs/incremental-sampling-methodology-ism-pcb-cleanup-sites.
New and Updated Pharmaceutical Frequent Questions Posted
EPA recently updated several frequent questions about the final rule establishing management standards for hazardous waste pharmaceuticals and amending the P075 listing for nicotine. Additionally, EPA added a section about the sewer ban, which was effective August 21, 2019.
Check out the frequent questions out here: https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/frequent-questions-about-management-standards-hazardous-waste-pharmaceuticals-and.
Paul Migwi joined SCS in May 2017 as an Associate Professional in the Overland Park office. Paul graduated from Kansas State University in 2017 earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering with a structural and environmental focus. He is now pursuing his Master’s in Engineering Management at KSU.
Paul was born in Kenya, and at the age of sixteen moved to the United States with his family. As a child, his dream was to become a pilot. When he grew up, he chased his dream and joined the military. Paul chose the United States Air Force because of its Civil Engineering and Pilot programs. In the four years that he served in the Air Force, he learned a lot about teamwork, engineering, and how to achieve his career goals.
After a year in training, Paul was deployed to Afghanistan for six months. After he returned, he worked at different Air Force bases and learned about construction, buildings, and concrete sheet metal. One of his best experiences and most memorable moments was at his first station in Guam where he worked with colleagues to construct a building in the middle of the forest. They used a technique called concrete tilt-up, which is pouring concrete sections horizontally on concrete slabs, and once they are cured, raising, or “tilting”, them with a crane and attaching them on a Pre-Engineering building (PEB). After multiple sections are created and raised, a building is eventually created. When the project was finished, Paul was amazed. Seeing the results of all the hard work he and his colleagues put into a building was a very gratifying feeling. He learned a lot about the technical process, but also about the importance of working as a team. To this day he still remembers just standing there and looking back at the completed building; “it looked awesome,” he said.
Paul’s military experience has helped him in so many ways, especially working well with others. He learned the value of teamwork, and how to work with different personalities. Teamwork has definitely helped him be successful at SCS Engineers. Paul says his favorite part of working at SCS is the people. It doesn’t matter what project he works on, he always enjoys working with his colleagues. They are helpful and supportive and always happy to lend a hand, and they are a big reason why he feels he has been successful at SCS.
Although Paul’s dream to become a pilot led him to join the military, his career goals and ambitions have changed. He enjoyed mathematics and science and wanted to pursue a career where he could use those skills. He majored in Civil Engineering and interned with a construction firm, envisioning a career in construction. Environmental engineering had not crossed his mind until he attended a KSU Career Fair where he interacted with an SCS employee who opened up his eyes to the possibilities. Later that day, Paul did his own research on SCS and was extremely impressed. He loved everything about the company, from what we do, the size of the Overland Park office, and the projects we perform. It also helped that he had friends who had interned with SCS in the past.
His everyday work varies at SCS; he designs using AutoCAD, and his main focus is on solid waste. He prepares Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPP), Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures Plans (SPCC), Facility Response Plans (FRP), and Control Quality Assurance (CQA), among other projects. Paul’s goal is to be out in the field more often. He believes that, in order to become a better designer, he needs to understand how things work in the field.
One of the biggest challenges that Paul has been successful in overcoming is balancing work and life. As a full time student and full time SCSer, it sounds very simple, but time management has made a huge difference in Paul’s life.
One of his greatest achievements and contributions at SCS was working on a permit modification. When one of their sites was at risk of a permit violation, Paul and the team had to redesign a practical and feasible landfill that would be acceptable to the state. When redesigning this landfill, Paul had to keep certain requirements in mind, such as water storage and how it affects the existing infrastructure, elevation, slope, and overall design. This project involved a lot of long days and nights, and, according to Paul, has been the best project he has worked on by far. It helped him see the big picture and truly understand how other projects work.
Paul is very ambitious and goal-driven; he has done a lot in his career and continues to push himself to grow every day. In his free time, he likes to be challenged and enjoys biking on bike trails. His advice to anyone interested in SCS is to, “Jump at the first chance you get; it is an awesome place to work!”
SCS would like to thank Paul and all of the Veterans at SCS for their service. Happy Veteran’s Day to everyone who has served!
SCS Engineers announces today that they are a founding sponsor of WISR – Women in Solid Waste & Recycling. WISR is the first of its kind nonprofit organization created in 2017, dedicated to preparing women for leadership positions in the industry by organizing chapters in key industry centers and providing opportunities for networking, leadership development, career mapping and mentoring. SCS Engineers’ support will help establish education programs in leadership as well as contribute to the creation of new chapters in at least six cities by the end of 2019. WISR is in the process of forming chapters in key industry centers — including Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta — that will offer quarterly programs including professional development with skills training, site tours, networking and leadership training.
“We look forward to meeting with colleagues in the solid waste, recycling, and environmental services fields to share our scientific, financial, and technical knowledge to move sustainable waste management forward in the U.S.,” stated Michelle Leonard, a vice president of SCS Engineers. “WISR will help us make a difference; for women and for the industry.”
University of Central Florida, MS
Robert P. Stearns/SCS Engineers Master’s Scholar
Project: Field Investigation of an Elevated Temperature Florida Landfill
For reasons that are not entirely clear, incidents of elevated temperatures in municipal solid waste landfills are occurring at increasing frequency. These landfills present temperatures that well exceed the range tolerable for micro-organisms (~176°F). Given the significance of elevated temperatures at landfills and the growing number of landfills with these issues, the goal of Joslyn’s research is to develop a more complete understanding of elevated temperature landfills using landfill gas and leachate monitoring data, specifically in the state of Florida.
Robert P. Stearns, Chairman and CoFounder of SCS Engineers, joined the EREF Board of Directors in 1999 and served as Chairman from 2004–2005. At SCS, he directed or served in a review capacity on many of the firm’s solid waste management-related projects. In 2007 EREF awarded the first Robert P. Stearns/SCS Engineers Master’s Scholarship, which was established to expand EREF’s successful doctoral-level scholarship program.
In this day and age, a back office customer information software system is a “must” for solid waste agencies managing inventories, work orders, and large numbers of customers.
However, many solid waste agencies have inadequate computer hardware and software systems to enable tracking of work productivity and customer service. Oftentimes, many use a combination of an Excel-based software system and manual card systems to track residential and commercial accounts. To the world of business operations, these manual systems are analogous to a stone and chisel versus a typewriter.
There are a wide variety of management information and software products used by solid waste agencies across the U.S. Each has its particular advocates and uses in the solid waste management practice. This article will provide an overview of the major trends in software development.