The Iowa Recycling and Solid Waste Management Conference planning committee is diligently working on hosting an in-person conference October 4-6, 2021, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex. Naturally, we’ll be attending if at all possible. So get your vaccine and plan to head to Cedar Rapids in October.
Check back; more information to come! We are recycling it here 🙂
In her first job at SCS Engineers, Joy Stephens worked in a small trailer, consolidating and analyzing data from landfill field techs’ notes, recorded in logbooks they lugged around while navigating the challenging site terrain, then brought to her covered in leachate and mud.
She cross-referenced their detailed, handwritten records with a master list posted on a wall, organized, and methodically examined them. Then she turned them into actionable intel for SCS’s engineers and scientists.
“That was definitely easier said than done. It was a lot of work – a lot of hours to make sure that we were ready for the next day. It struck me that there’s got to be a better way. That we could make collecting and using this valuable information easier for the field staff and OM&M (Operations, Monitoring & Maintenance),” she says.
GIS Supports Wellfield Operations
From that inspiration came a lot of brainstorming, developing, and tweaking what today is a powerful yet user-friendly GIS system that stores and organizes volumes of geographical information in one place and gives users what they need fast to troubleshoot landfill conditions. The customizable application is now used at hundreds of landfills across the country, mainly to support wellfield operations, though it has other landfill system applications.
Field techs enter information onto digital forms using a mobile app and submit the data, uploading it to the cloud. OM&M teams have it in a streamlined format in a couple of minutes and can visualize what they are looking for on maps from a dashboard.
The technology that Stephens was an integral player in launching continues to evolve, and there’s a story behind that evolution.
“In the beginning, I reached out to this brilliant young lady, Brooke Aumann, from the Tampa office, who does a lot of GIS work. I had some GIS experience myself, but more landfill knowledge. I picked her brain so we could set up a digital replacement for the logbooks that zeroed in on exactly what the field techs and project managers needed to support our clients,” says Stephens, an environmental scientist.
Together, the two women created experimental web maps to plot and visualize basic information such as the location of each monitoring point, points requiring the collection of liquid levels, and the status of maintenance tasks at each well. Then they developed digital survey forms with more detailed information and connected those forms to the maps; this enabled end-users to overlay even more data for a holistic snapshot of what goes on at wellfields.
“We tried different configurations of web maps and symbology to depict best what we wanted to convey. We talked about what we needed to symbolize and how we needed to symbolize it. And we discussed possibilities for future developments. We knew much more was possible in terms of what we could collect, how all of these data are connected, and how we could exploit the software to better tackle more complex tasks,” Stephens says.
From maps to interfacing data forms to the next level X-ray vision
“Now we’ve gone a step further. We’re doing 3D well visualizations, which give a kind of Superman X-ray vision subsurface. You are literally looking beneath to the well to get good intel,” Stephens says.
Traversing the World
With undergraduate degrees in Mandarin Chinese and geology and graduate degrees in teaching science and environmental management, Stephens has long loved learning, the environment, and nature.
“When I was young, my parents were missionaries, and I grew up in the most beautiful, pristine, remote areas, like the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – so unspoiled and lovely.”
It was a sharp contrast to what she would see later when she moved with her young son to China, where she taught math and science. The air quality was poor, and the streets and landscape were inundated with litter.
That experience was the final push that landed the young professional at the foot of a career path she’d considered for some time; environmental sciences. She’d taught it before, but a voice inside her was telling her to pivot and actually start doing the work.
Stephens found her way into a program at a university in Scotland after researching graduate environmental management programs worldwide. At this prestigious learning institution, she first worked with remote sensors and GIS, identifying and addressing “waste crimes,” namely illegal dumping.
Seizing the opportunity to apply her expertise
After graduation, the teacher-turned-scientist took her education and experience back to the United States and SCS Engineers. The company was not foreign to her. By the time she applied, she had made as much a project of vetting employers as she had of scoping out universities. Two draws drew her attention:
“There is the ethos; SCS is genuinely committed to the environment. And the other part that was important to me is SCS is very invested in professional growth and training to foster that growth. I believed that I would have opportunities to move up,” Stephens reflects, recalling when she said yes to the first job working with those logbooks that would be the catalyst to what was to come.
When she came on board, she had to gain practical experience in the solid waste industry and learn the ropes in the field, in addition to her prior experience in renewable energy. In time she had learned her way around landfill gas collection wells, then kept building on that knowledge.
“I asked a ton of questions. Why are we monitoring for this? What constitutes good gas quality? Why is it important to know liquid levels? What is the difference between vacuum and flow? I think asking all these questions, collecting field data myself, and watching what the guys in the field had to do, gave me a good base understanding to help inform how we would capture the right information using GIS. It was a collaborative effort. Brooke worked on many landfill projects and my colleague, Chris Carver, had 16 years of field and project management work. It all came together.”
She later joined the RMC team (Remote Monitoring and Controls), where she received further training in GIS and mastered other skill sets. Today she is a project professional specializing in GIS and drone services.
At home with waste management
The hybrid techie-artist in Stephens comes out when she makes an analogy that tells a little of how her wheels turn.
She grew up playing Legos and now, at almost 40 years old, still builds with them at home with her son.
She approaches the job the same way as when she assembles those sets.
“You know the pieces fit to make something, but it takes creativity to figure out just how to build it and make it as visually pleasing and functional as you can, or to get it to function in different ways. I try to configure and piece together for the best possible design,” she says.
Stephens has married that approach with a desire to be a part of both restoring and protecting the environment. She thinks she’s in the right place to act on that intention.
“I feel like work with waste management and SCS is a way to achieve what I think is so important. We are trying to protect, remediate, and leave conditions better than we found them. That is what being a good steward is all about.”
See Joy Stephens at work in her recent educational presentation for landfill owners and operators. Joy demonstrates technologies to reduce the time to collect, process, and show data.
David Hostetter from SCS Engineers® and Dennis Siegel from Waste Management® are the feature speakers on Inductive Conversations, a podcast about the unique processes and challenges within the waste management industry, from residential to the engineering and life cycles of landfills.
Dave and Dennis discuss how operational improvements are being made in this essential service and its environmental footprint. They dive into the 24/7 maintenance and monitoring of landfills, adjusting to changing conditions in real-time, reducing cost, generating renewable energy, improving the health and safety of operators, and being proactive in a changing world. We also hear about an Ignition-based solution called Connected Landfills that improves connectivity, mobility, and visualization by using data science to facilitate better decisions.
The Virginia Composting Council is the state affiliate of the US Composting Council; its mission is to support the efforts and initiatives of the USCC and bring the practice of composting to more Virginians. The Composting Council is growing because of increased efforts by communities to divert food waste from disposal. Demand is growing with increased awareness of composting’s beneficial uses.
The Virginia Council, led by President Ryan Duckett of SCS Engineers, cites the obvious benefits of less waste going to landfills and lower greenhouse gas emissions in the environment. He also points out the jobs and business development potential and using compost for stormwater management, erosion control, and other green infrastructure as benefits. Expanded programs also offer the opportunity to collect edible foods for non-profits feeding many in need while diverting non-edible organics to composting.
The Council brings together manufacturers, municipal managers, organics collectors, researchers, and other compost allies in the waste industry. The group works to educate state regulators, local officials, and the public about composting’s value in a circular system. Members also help develop positions on regulations and legislation that affect composting and the market.
USCC has 13 state chapters that do local work to advance the composting industry alongside the national advocacy and programs. Without their on-the-ground education, attention to and work in regulations and legislation, and building networks of people in the industry, USCC could not be effective.
Please join the Air & Waste Management Association for their annual Information Exchange (virtual conference), December 8-10, 2020.
The conference will feature information exchange, discussion, and solutions from and among industry and regulatory leading experts. This year’s virtual program will cover policy updates, regulatory changes, and research on the latest environmental topics.
U.S. EPA speakers from the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) and Office of Research and Development (ORD) will present their latest information on environmental rules, policies, and research on current topics, including:
Additional speakers from industry, NGOs, agencies and academia will share their expertise and the latest solutions for maintaining compliance and reducing environmental impacts, including:
Two panels are also in development on the topics of PFAS and Global Climate Change.
SCS Professionals Ali Khatami and David Hostetter, along with sustainability expert Leslie Lukacs will discuss “Landfills, Technology, and the Future” at a panel hosted by the US Green Building Council on December 3 (1:00 PM Eastern).
Landfills are a part of what keeps our society moving. While they have their drawbacks, advances in landfill design and technology use in landfills are improving their operation and management. This panel will address what we see coming in the future to help our society manage our waste.
Event registration: https://101520landfills.eventbrite.com
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/643323933211008
LinkedIn event: https://www.linkedin.com/events/6718943429298003968/
Learn more about Waste Management’s Award at minute 30:54 of the video conference recording. Congratulations to the Waste Management Team!
The Ignition Firebrand Awards recognize system integrators such as SCS Engineers and industrial firms for their use of technology to create innovative solutions.
Today at the virtual Ignition Community Conference, Waste Management (WM) is accepting the 2020 Firebrand Award for its landfill technology and automation platform advances. The Company designed an internal solution then contracted with SCS Engineers’ RMC Practice, and Vertech Industrial Solutions to deploy WM’s new innovative ‘Connected Landfills’ pilot.
“Waste Management is excited to be recognized for our innovative work and use of new technologies,” said Bryan Tindell, vice president of disposal operations at Waste Management. “Striving for the most innovative and advanced technology in the world of waste helps ensure we are able to continue providing essential services for residents, customers and our communities. The use of advanced technology has also introduced new ways of working for our employees, further elevating their daily experience and streamlining our processes.”
WM’s Connected Landfills system was first piloted at the West Edmonton Landfill in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The pilot proved to simplify workflows, equipping landfill assets with internet-connected devices and sensors. Technicians are able to review data remotely via dashboards on mobile devices, allowing them to monitor changes, make decisions and even directly interact with equipment with the push of a button. With less time spent in transit, landfill employees will be able to spend more time managing landfills’ productivity and health.
“The integration of remote monitoring and control helps make landfill operations more efficient, sustainable, and creates a safer environment for landfill staff and the surrounding community,” said Dave Hostetter, regional manager of SCS RMC®. “That the innovation is being recognized as well is gratifying.”
This design and integration advances WM’s existing environmental management platform by increasing worker safety, the user experience, and running the landfill systems efficiently. It also supports Waste Management’s commitment to ensuring public safety and environmental protection for landfill staff and the surrounding community. Landfills, and the municipalities and companies that operate landfills use sophisticated technology to manage the complex environmental systems that keep citizens and the air, water, and soil surrounding landfills healthy. Ongoing collection of data from these assets, often collected by checking meters positioned throughout landfill sites, is essential for landfills’ safe operation.
Waste Management operates the largest network of landfills in the industry, managing the disposal of almost 100 million tons of waste every year at over 250 sites across Canada and the US. Based on the pilot’s success, WM plans to expand the Connected Landfills system to other sites throughout North America.
About Waste Management
Waste Management, based in Houston, Texas, is the leading provider of comprehensive waste management environmental services in North America. Through its subsidiaries, the Company provides collection, transfer, disposal services, and recycling and resource recovery. It is also a leading developer, operator and owner of landfill gas-to-energy facilities in the United States. The Company’s customers include residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal customers throughout North America. To learn more information about Waste Management, www.wm.com.
About SCS Engineers
SCS Engineers’ environmental solutions and technology are a direct result of our experience and dedication to |solid waste management and other industries responsible for safeguarding the environment while delivering products and services. For more information about SCS, please visit our website at scsengineers.com or watch our 50th Anniversary video.
Air & Waste Management Association’s 113th Annual Conference – “ACE 2020 Gateway to Innovation”, has been transformed into a virtual conference that will begin on June 30.
A&WMA’s ACE 2020 Virtual Conference will allow you to stay up to date on timely and critical topics – all within an online environment that can be accessed from anywhere. The same great information and knowledge in their technical program will be available, with enhanced online features that will allow you to connect with presenters, attendees, exhibitors and sponsors.
The ACE 2020 Virtual Conference runs Tuesday, June 30 through Thursday, July 2 with an engaging lineup of scheduled live-streamed sessions each day and hundreds of on-demand presentations that will be available through June 2021.
The Virtual conference will include dozens of livestream events and presentations and numerous on-demand sessions, including the following by SCS professionals:
Both associations are providing guidance, as many waste management activities must continue. SCS is following association advice, state protocols, and our clients’ recommendations in our own procedures as we continue to perform essential work. We share the SWANA resources and recommendations here and thank them for their dedication. SCS employees should use SCS resources available on the SCS intranet and through our Health & Safety protocol, which reflect the safety precautions advised here.
Reprinted Letter to SWANA Members dated March 23, 2020
As communities and companies throughout the United States and Canada respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, SWANA will continue to provide assistance to its members and the waste industry.
A growing number of states and localities are issuing orders identifying certain industries as “essential” during the pandemic, and these orders typically include the solid waste industry and other categories of employees who may be SWANA members. In those locations, employees and contractors may need to demonstrate proof to law enforcement personnel or others that they work in an essential industry. See this template letter that employers can customize to their needs and provide to employees and contractors. The letter should be on agency/company letterhead and include a contact person and a telephone number to call. The contact person should be familiar with the applicable emergency declarations.
Employees and contractors should carry the customized letter with them at all times, and particularly when they are going to or from work. Several waste industry employees in California in their personal vehicles were stopped on their way to work by law enforcement personnel late last week, but fortunately, their employer had created a letter similar to the attached and the employees were able to show that letter and proceed to their places of employment.
This letter is intended to allow workers to demonstrate that they work in a job category identified as an essential service, including solid waste and recycling operations. It should not be used for any other purpose or by employees that are not actively supporting these operations.
In addition, attached is a notification document for solid waste employers and others to place in their work vehicles to demonstrate they are covered by recent emergency order guidance. It cites the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, March 19, 2020 memo that identifies workers engaged in the removal, storage, and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste as essential infrastructure workers.
NWRA resources are plentiful and include these:
COVID-19 WORK PRACTICES At this time CDC and OSHA are not issuing waste and recycling specific guidelines for the handling of waste and recycling materials related to COVID 19. If this changes, NWRA will alert its members. Use this industry guidance.
COVID-19 RESOURCES Resources and information provided by agencies and organizations.
Waste 360 will host its Global Waste Management Symposium 2020 at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, California, February 23-26, 2020.
The conference will feature world-class content, including innovative presentations by top industry experts; think technology, trends, critical issues, and scientific innovation; state-of-the-art breakthrough research; and showcases by leading suppliers of the latest solutions to the industry’s challenges. SCS Engineers professionals speaking this year include the following:
James Law will provide an Overview of ISWA’s Global Initiative on Closing Dumps, on Monday, February 24 at 2:00 pm (Track B: Waste Management Planning & Odor Control).
Alex Stege will evaluate the Local Effects of California’s Senate Bill 1383: Changes to Organic Waste Disposal & Impacts on Methane Generation, Recovery, and Emissions on Monday, February 24 at 2:00 pm (Track C: Organic Management Policy/Strategies).
Dr. Viraj DeSilva will deliver a presentation on PFAS Treatment – The Devil We Know and Need to Manage, on Tuesday, February 25 at 8:30 am (Track A: PFAS Management).
Dr. Gomathy Iyer will discuss the Suitability of Un-Composted Grass Clippings and Biosolids as Biocovers for Biological Methane Removal from Landfills on Tuesday, February 25 at 8:30 am (Track B: Landfill Covers).
Ray Huff will demonstrate The WAG: An Innovation in Landfill Gas Data Analysis on Tuesday, February 25 at 1:30 pm (Track B: Landfill Gas Management) and at the Fugitive Air Emissions Workshop on Wednesday, February 26 at 10:00 am.
Pat Sullivan will provide a Comparison of Organic Waste Management Options in Terms of Air Quality and GHG Impacts on Tuesday, February 25 at 3:30 pm (Track A: Life Cycle Assessment).
The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is a strategic partner of this conference to deliver a program that is more technical, innovative and essential than ever before. The core education of GWMS is the submission of comprehensive abstracts in all areas related to solid waste engineering and management that have been vetted by GWMS’s committee of industry experts. The presentations will be given by researchers from top academic institutions and industry experts.