How a Landfill managed by a not-for-profit Association exemplifies progressive fiscal, environmental and community values.
“Everything that comes here, stays here.”
While it may sound a like a reference to Hotel California, our story comes from a place far north of Todos Santos, the small town on Mexico’s Baja peninsula, home to the hotel made famous by the Eagles. Emile Saindon oversees a staff of 11, 3 stormwater ponds, 2 leachate ponds, and manages the Municipal Solid Waste for two towns in southern Alberta.
Pincher Creek sits in a mining, oil & gas community in western Canada, a region hit hard by low oil prices and the myriad challenges of building new pipelines to get its product to market. Originally built in 1976, by the mid-1990s the site became a Class 2 Registered Landfill and began accepting industrial waste. Today the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill site manages over 100,000 tonnes of commercial and municipal waste in a typical year. Commercial contractors come from as far away as Vancouver, BC, some 600 miles to the west, and from all points in between. “We have the lowest tipping fees in Alberta,” Emile admits, which is a reflection of the best in class technology, innovation and cost containment that has been implemented to achieve the operating goals of the site.
“All of our equipment is GPS tracked by our suppliers; we don’t have downtime, we have advance notice of servicing and we plan for every contingency,” says Emile. Operating 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year in a rugged northern climate requires some advanced planning, but it also demands innovation. “As a member of SWANA Northern Lights Chapter, and as a member of Alberta Recycling Management Authority, we have extremely high standards we are measured against. Our staff and engineering partners are always looking for ways to work smarter, reduce our footprint and generate operational savings; we receive no funding from any level of Government, so working smart isn’t an option, it’s the only option.”
“We’re saving $200,000 to $250,000 a year, from a one-time investment of $75,000 all in. Our 5-year net return will be roughly $1 million in savings.”
One of Emile’s cost-saving plans came into effect in 2016, in the form of a customized EcoMister Evaporator (formerly known as the Turbo-Mister), from Slimline Manufacturing, an OEM company known for engineering custom wastewater management solutions. With two 55 x 55 meter (150’ x 150’) leachate ponds naturally running high in spring, the site would truck excess liquid from the ponds starting in early March to a deep-well site to be treated and disposed of, the volume of which was dependent on the severity of the winter snows, and the amount of rainfall. Disposal costs averaged out at $200,000 in low years, to $250,000 or more in heavier years.
Emile recalls the decision point as a small but meaningful eureka moment: “One of our consulting engineers suggested the EcoMister evaporator as a solution, allowing us to dramatically enhance natural evaporation, and bring the pond level down by 3-6 inches a week. We knew we’d need a custom application, and as our ponds are remote, we’d need a self-contained power source. The Slimline Manufacturing team created a model that met all of our criteria. For the past 2.5 years, we’ve run the Evaporator 10 hours a day, 6 days a week for 6 months each year, powered by a small diesel generator. Our maintenance costs have totaled about $2,000, and we haven’t had to truck of a single drop out of the ponds since.”
With some highly corrosive materials contained in the ponds, Emile expected some breakdowns, even if modest in scale, but none materialized. “We haven’t even changed a nozzle”, said Emile, “after constant use over two and half years. We spent $2,000 rebuilding the pump after the first year because we didn’t want to take any shortcuts, but that’s about it. With the small diesel generator, we run the Evaporator for pennies an hour, every day, all through the season. We’re looking at getting a second Evaporator now.” In an era where the industry is being challenged to demonstrate a newfound commitment to environmental protection, and with cost minimization always the overwhelming priority, Emile and his team found a way to meet the challenge head-on, saving fuel, saving money and reducing their footprint. No wonder they have the best tipping fees in Alberta.
For more information on Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill Association, please visit www.crowsnestpincherlandfill.com