8 Ways New Technology is Revolutionizing Landfill Maintenance

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For waste engineers, landfills are an ongoing challenge that require frequent measurement and the application of constantly evolving maintenance techniques.

After all, once tons upon tons of waste accumulate the maintenance challenges take on a life of their own. Liquid runoff must be managed, gasses must be contained, and the landfill’s own capacity must be monitored on behalf of the companies and municipalities using the site.

Here are eight ways technology is helping the engineers in charge of waste sites work more effectively.


Putting a Lid on Gas Emissions

Landfills give off lots of gas — and accompanying smells. Waste engineers spend incredible amounts of time finding ways to convert those emissions into something useful while mitigating any downwind fumes that a site’s neighbors could find nauseating.

Fortunately, some of those emissions can be turned into fuel, which is what French company Air Liquide is doing at a site in Mississippi. As Cole Rosengren at WasteDIVE reports, Air Liquide — which is just putting the final touches on its purification plant — expects to begin purifying the methane from that site, via a polymeric membrane, into around 1,300 mmBTU per day.

The company says its membrane technology can create biomethane with up to 99 percent purity.


Measuring Emissions with Drones

Drones have been a huge boon to heavy industry because they offer so many versatile ways to collect data. The same is true in the solid waste industry.

For sites that emit gases, “drones offer a sampling platform from which to traverse the atmosphere in three-dimensions relatively rapidly (at the spatial scale of landfill sites, anyway),” AWE International writes.

What’s more, with a single drone or a fleet of drones getting real-time samples in the air, you can control for variables such as wind speed and get a much more accurate estimate of exactly how much greenhouse gas emissions a specific site is responsible for, the authors write.

Therefore, drone data collection is poised to deliver some big ecological wins in this industry.


Bio-Covers to Reduce Methane Emissions

Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark are experimenting with materials they call Bio-Covers to reduce the amount of methane landfills emit into the air. The idea is simple: Cover a site with compost containing the right microorganisms, which can convert the rising methane into CO2, a gas that contributes exponentially less to any greenhouse effects in the atmosphere.

“The Danish Bio-Cover scheme for the control of methane emissions is unique worldwide in providing funding for this,” writes the consultancy NIRAS, which is cooperating with the university on this project and using drones — exactly as noted above — to help measure methane outputs.

“The scheme is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the funding is estimated to be sufficient for controlling and mitigating methane emissions from approximately 100 waste disposal sites and landfills in Denmark. Currently, there are a total of seven pilot projects underway in Denmark.”


Using Materials to Control Odors, Too

More tangibly than greenhouse emissions, at least for nearby residents, landfills can give off some foul smells. Dr. Laura Haupert, Director of Research and Development at OMI Industries, recently wrote about how that company is implementing a solution for landfill odor it calls Ecosorb.

Ecosorb technology combines plant extracts, water and surfactants to lower liquid surface tension to eliminate odors at the molecular level — “without the use of harsh or hazardous chemicals, emission control systems, or masking fragrances,” the blog post points out.

Slippery Slopes: Managing the Liquids in Landfills

Leachate management is an ongoing challenge for solid waste engineers. When water percolates through the contents of a landfill, it becomes a pretty effective vector for introducing pollution into the surrounding earth.

That’s why the liners at the bottom of landfills have become such a serious focus of innovation. Materials engineers are constantly looking for ways to create better liners to contain that leachate.

One of the most promising such liners are made from geosynthetic clay, the team at AGRU writes, because that material is both durable and hydrophobic. Engineers today are using geosynthetic clay (GCL) to create composite liners with geomembranes (GM) that create two layers of leachate protection.

“When using GM alone, even the smallest hole brings leachate directly into the leak detection system with sufficient driving hydraulic head,” the AGRU team says. “The high swelling characteristics of the bentonite clay component in the GCL will work to seal the leak in the GM.”


Applying Geosynthetic Liners to Other Industries

Landfill managers aren’t the only ones who recognize these benefits. Mining engineers at coal mines have begun to use GCLs to help contain wet coal ash, Chris Kelsey writes at Geosynthetica.net.

“The coal ash resistant GCL is a specifically formulated, polymer-enhanced geosynthetic clay liner with granular sodium bentonite encapsulated between two geotextiles,” Kelsey says. “It is intended for containment of the potentially high ionic strength leachates in coal combustion waste applications.

“The polymer enhancement of the bentonite delivers outstanding performance under extreme conditions and chemical attack, making it ideal for lining systems with wet process ash or dry ash storage. This geosynthetic is unique in that high ionic solutions with elevated levels of calcium and sodium have historically been a ‘no-man’s land’ for bentonite-based products.”


Why Some Landfills Intentionally Add Water

One municipality in North Texas, however, is upping the water levels in its landfill. Arlene Karidis at Waste360 has the story:

The city of Denton, Texas, is working with researchers at the University of Texas, Arlington to increase and monitor liquid levels in its landfill. This has two benefits. First, it accelerates decomposition, thereby extending the life of the landfill. Second, that decomposition should triple the amount of useful methane gas released from the site.

The project relies on a novel method of monitoring liquids called electrical resistivity imaging, which lets researchers track the content and movement of moisture in the landfill, giving them precise data that will tell them when to add water and when to hold off.


The Internet of Things Brings a New Level of Intelligence to Sites

The universe of connected devices that comprise the Internet of Things has begun to transform several industries, including manufacturing and home energy management. This same technology, when applied to the solid waste industry, offers whole new ways for managers to gain insights on their worksites.

For example, the city of Atlanta recently hired cloud-based waste management company Rubicon Global to equip its fleet of hauling trucks with the company’s app, which makes it possible for fleet managers to track each truck’s routes and pickups in real-time.

“This cutting-edge suite of new services will enhance operational efficiency, improve customer service, and ensure a consistent level of service citywide,” Rubicon Global writes at Forrester Daily News.

“The insights gathered by Rubicon go beyond route analytics and pickup rates. Our partnership with the City of Atlanta will also provide valuable planning data for the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, most notably by enabling real-time information on current landfill diversion and recycling rates in support of the city’s zero-waste efforts.”

That kind of intel has benefits beyond the day-to-day operations of a site. For customers — i.e. local taxpayers — this can mean more precise, individualized billing for garbage collection services, the Fluid Gas Handling team at Parker writes, rather than simply charging all taxpayers an average price for collection.

“The system would reward you for reducing waste and increasing recycling and reuse. It is not a unique idea — simple measurements on garbage trucks and smart identification of garbage cans is already being piloted and underway. The ubiquitous presence of connectivity and reduced cost of sensing and cloud storage are enabling and accelerating it.”

Finally — and this speaks directly to the work we do at Firmatek — a distributed network of sensors means the materials, construction and solid waste industries can start analyzing their sites in more than three dimensions.

“By combining multiple datasets, it’s possible to develop 4D models that enable users to view conditions over time,” TechTarget’s IoT Agenda notes. “This approach provides the ability to detect and measure changes and provides important benefits to applications such as construction, earthworks, agriculture and land administration.”

The TechTarget piece even suggests a fifth dimension, cost, that can be layered over those analyses so that a site manager could easily visualize the resources, time and money needed to move solid materials.

Considered all together, the evolution of technologies that manage emissions, control leachate and monitor landfill sites will make the solid waste industry a very interesting space to watch in the next few years.
images by: ©conceptw/123RF Stock Photo, ©siur/123RF Stock Photo, Hans

Safe Sites: New Site Regulations Area Managers Should Be Aware of in 2017

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female hand signing contract.

Due to shifting regulations, 2017 is shaping up to be a year of real uncertainty in the mining and construction industries. For executives and area managers who are simply trying to do their jobs, this uncertainty can be concerning.

We’re going to take a look at four regulations to keep your eyes on so you can stay on the right side of the law in 2017.


How to Navigate the MSHA’s Examination of Working Places Rule

On May 23, the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s new rule on examining workplaces will take effect. This will allow the MHSA to

  • conduct workplace examinations before work begins,
  • give notification to miners who are affected by hazardous conditions, and
  • have access to records of when and where examinations were carried out, as well as what conditions were found.

That all sounds fairly straightforward, but a couple of issues remain. First of all, will examinations conducted before someone’s work begins create new challenges?

“Currently, safety examinations must occur sometime during a shift, which could mean at the end of a shift when workers have already spent hours exposed to an undetected hazard,” Kristen Beckman writes at BusinessInsurance.com.

“The new rule specifies that examinations must occur before work begins in an area, but that requirement prompts questions such as how mines that operate multiple or overlapping shifts will schedule examinations.”

The bigger issue, however, is one that will come up a few more times below — will the Trump administration change all of these policies drastically?

“The industry now, with the change in administration, will be in a wait-and-see approach to see what happens,” Jason Nutzman, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl L.L.P., tells Beckman. “There is plenty of time for the Trump administration to pull it back, but it may not be high on their radar, so it may slip through the cracks.”

construction site at sunset

OSHA Enforcement Will Likely Change Under Trump

One organization that probably will not slip through the cracks is OSHA, which in October proposed 18 changes to its construction, recordkeeping, maritime and general industry standards.

The team at ConstructConnect has an excellent overview of what these changes would entail. Among 15 other changes, these would:

  • update the Mine Safety Health Administration’s standards on using diesel-powered equipment used underground,
  • require managers to ensure that cell phones can contact 911 effectively on the worksite,
  • and revise criteria for ascertaining whether a person’s hearing loss was work-related.

Legal experts, however, believe Trump administration plans for OSHA (which could include funding cuts) will reposition it as an organization that focuses more on compliance assistance and cooperation, not enforcement, Safety+Health’s Tom Musick writes.

Further, Justin M. Reese, assistant VP and senior risk consultant at HUB International, predicts that a 2015 rule allowing OSHA penalties to increase annually to essentially keep pace with inflation might get overturned, or at least undercut in power.

At state and city levels of government, regulatory measures continue to move forward. As Sally Goldenberg and Gloria Pazmino report at Politico, New York’s city council is in the process of introducing several bills that “would require additional safety training, mandate an apprenticeship program, address how fatalities are reported by the Department of Buildings and create a minority workforce task force.”


Where the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Directive Stands

An executive order from President Obama signed in 2014, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule was slated for repeal under President Trump.

That rule would have required contractors bidding on federal projects “to attest to whether they have had violations of the covered labor laws resulting in any ‘administrative merits determinations, civil judgments, or arbitral awards or decisions’ issued within the preceding three years,” the legal team at Littler Mendelson wrote in August. “It has been left to the [Department of Labor] to define the scope of such reportable violations or ‘labor law decisions.’”

Beginning this year, that EO would have required federal contractors and subcontractors to provide wage statements to employees and disclose any violations of 14 specific federal laws from the previous year, attorney Erik Dullea writes at The Contractor’s Perspective. In 2016, a federal district court in Texas hampered the order’s implementation, but now Congress is in a position to do away with it outright.

At the end of January, however, House Republicans introduced a resolution to overturn that EO, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America reports, and on February 2 the House voted 236-187 to overturn the resolution, which means it only now awaits President Trump’s signature for the congressional veto to become enacted.

two workers and quarry in background

Where the Directive Requiring Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors Stands

Another EO from the Obama Administration that Republicans are targeting is the Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors order, which would have granted some 1.2 million people access to paid sick leave, AFCEA International says.

“The action arguably will improve the overall health and performance of the work force,” the organization writes. “Those who drag themselves to work coughing and sneezing — and infecting others — now can recuperate at home. The rule also brings the benefits packages of these workers in line with other companies, ensuring that federal contractors remain competitive employers.”

But Joe Davidson at The Washington Post reports President Trump intends to roll back that order, among several others. Those others, Davidson reports, include:

  • establishment of a $10.10 hourly minimum wage,
  • prohibitions against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,
  • and a directive “to maintain Federal leadership in sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reductions.”

During any administrative turnovers in the White House, there is always some uncertainty in what laws apply and how they will be enforced. During the year, the dust will begin to settle, and some clarity will emerge.

In the meantime, decision-makers in our industry will have their hands full keeping up to date with what rules apply to them.

images by: ©nonwarit/123RF Stock Photo, ©sondem/123RF Stock Photo, ©wawritto/123RF Stock Photo

What We’re Looking Forward to at the 2017 CONEXPO-CON/AGG Convention

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Because it only takes place once every three years, the CONEXPO-CON/AGG expo is a huge event for the construction, aggregates and ready-mixed concrete industries.

The 2017 expo will take place in March 7–11 in Las Vegas, at the convention center. The numbers for this year are pretty staggering: 2,500-plus exhibitions, 150 education sessions, and 2.5 million sq. ft. of space needed to host everyone.

We’re going to be at Booth B91804 in the Bronze Hall; stop in and say hello! And here are 14 of the other companies, speakers and events we’re especially excited about.


GeoSonics/Vibra-Tech (Booth C30973)

GeoSonics/Vibra-Tech has offered blasting and vibration consulting services to mine operators for years. At the expo, the company will be showing off its new Re:mote Monitoring Technology, which automatically collects continuous data on vibration, noise levels, dust and other environmental concerns, then delivers that data to either a web browser or the smartphone app.


Zeecrane (Booth G1412)

Zeecrane tends to turn heads on the exhibition floor with its zero-emissions cranes, one with a 9,000-pound lifting capacity and a second with an 18,000-pound capacity. Most importantly, these cranes produce zero operational waste (and make very little noise) because they have all-electric operating systems powered by a maintenance-free battery.


Metso (Booth C31061)

Finland’s Metso has promised to unveil some truly revolutionary crushing technology at the expo, though the company has kept a tight lid on details. What we do know is this new technology is said to increase uptime and reduce operational costs.


Liebherr (Outdoor Booth G4637)

Liebherr’s outdoor booth is going to be huge: The surface area will cover 50,000 sq. ft. and feature 25 different hydraulic excavators, tower cranes, wheel loaders and other heavy equipment the company manufactures. Additionally, its tower cranes team will have a virtual reality app that will let users get a feel for what it’s like to operate one of those giant cranes in real time.

TII Group (Booth G1723)

The TII Group will have several models from its Highway line of transport vehicles (pictured above), including some self-propelled models. One model the company is excited about is the SCHEUERLE SPMT Light, which it says is perfect for moving up to 220 tons in enclosed facilities such as plants.


McCloskey International (Booth S5115)

McCloskey International has a new wash plant called the Sandstorm that it will be launching at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. That first product will also signal the launch of a new division within the company, McCloskey Washing Systems. Other new products on display will include a lineup of screening equipment and a 100-foot telescoping stacker.


Raimondi Cranes (Booth S5035)

Italian crane-maker Raimondi is making its first-ever appearance at the expo in a move to get its products in front of prospective North American buyers. As such, the company is bringing its entire executive team out to Las Vegas. “We are signalling to the markets of Canada and the United States that we are looking to cultivate strong, new relationships, while simultaneously developing upon cooperative efforts with our existing client base,” technical director Domenico Ciano says.


Maeda (Booth G4017)

Maeda USA has a new mini-crawler crane, the CC1485, that the company is excited to show off. It’s the only small crawler sold in North America with a telescopic boom (that boom has a capacity of 6.6 tons, too).


Sandvik (S5128)

Sandvik Construction is going to have a pretty big display at the expo where it will feature its CS550 cone crusher, its brand-new QJ341+ mobile jaw crusher, its electrically driven UI310+ wheeled impact crusher, and its self-contained DT912D jumbo drill rig, among others.

Session: Tapping into New Technologies at the Tappan Zee Bridge Project (T14)

John Glinski, owner of Crane Training and Safety Consultants, will host one of three very promising sessions on Tuesday. Glinski will give an overview of the ongoing reconstruction to New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge and what innovative technologies are being employed on that project.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., March 7


Session: The Next Generation Job Site: Drones (T19)

Concurrent with the session above, Andres Vargas, kinematic integrations and applications engineer at RIEGL USA, will discuss various applications of drones in the construction industry: From estimating and surveying to giving potential clients aerial views of projects to structural inspection.

Vargas will also go over how contractors can find the right drones for their needs, what regulations they should be aware of, and what insurance or liability issues exist with drone deployment.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., March 7


Session: OSHA Compliance: How to Avoid Fines (T28)

Bruce Mosier, VP at Prins Insurance in Iowa and certified OSHA Outreach Trainer, will lead a session for contractors that will specifically address new laws governing OSHA (including its power to raise fines as of August 2016) and how contractors should interact with that organization.

Key points will include preparation for an inspection, a rundown of your rights as a contractor, communication with OSHA inspectors, and an overview of fines and penalties.

When: 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 7


The Tech Experience

Organizers this year have a Tech Experience exhibit that, frankly, is going to be really cool. The showcase will be 75,000 square feet and feature some immersive technology, have solar-powered runways and include a 3D printed excavator, among other things.

Plus, the Tech Experience speakers list is outstanding. It includes NASA astronauts Captain Mark Kelly and Captain Scott Kelly, as well as Bruce Upbin from Hyperloop One. Look for some interesting talks on connected jobsites, the maker movement, SMART highways and high-tech protective equipment.


NSSGA 2017 Convention

The National Stone Sand and Gravel Association will hold its own annual convention in the days just before CONEXPO-CON/AGG, on March 3–7. Besides the networking opportunities and a scheduled Blue Man Group performance, there are some very good reasons for anyone in the industry to get to Las Vegas five days early.

On March 6 and 7, that convention will host educational sessions that will touch on strategic sales and basic supervisory skills. Also, the NSSGA announced at the beginning of the year that Ken Schmidt, former director of communications strategy at Harley-Davidson Motor Co., will close the general session.

For anyone who works in mining or with quarries, March offers an excellent opportunity to double up on conventions, make the most of those networking opportunities and maybe take in a trip to the Grand Canyon that Sunday.
images by: ©welcomia/123RF Stock Photo, TII Group, ©kasto/123RF Stock Photo

Take a Flight Through Landfills

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Take a look as we fly through 2 different landfill operations using the eyes of mobile lidar. Firmatek uses mobile scanning to help managers in this important industry tightly monitor 4 different variables in effective landfill management.  Come find out what they are.

Compaction and Airspace: The Keys to Landfill Profitability

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The business of landfills is air, selling empty space to be filled with solid waste, and in this industry not all air is equal. Landfills have the unique ability of being able to modify the lifespan of their product without changing the amount of product they started with.  It all comes down to compaction. Volume may be fixed, but density is not, and the more solid waste you can fit into a given volume, the more valuable that space is. That is why it is absolutely necessary to have an accurate and reliable way of tracking the change in the volume of solid waste before and after compaction. Read more

Video: Landfills Benefit Using Mobile Lidar

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This video focuses on the application of Mobile Lidar in Landfill Development.  See here how mobile scanning produces breathtaking 3D point cloud images that provide these advantages over the currently used techniques:  Read more