Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All in a Haze

I'm back at the landfill after another successful semester (4 A's, 2 B's, one more semester left). I'll only be here for a couple weeks during the Christmas break, but there's always something to do. Right now I'm updating the AsBuilt schematics for the O&M Building and the Scalehouse.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Along with the new culvert job, there was a big mess made last week when the landfill caught on fire. Last Thursday was really windy across the valley and there was a lot of lightning. There were big fires in Skull Valley, out by Salt Lake International Airport, and out by us. The fire started sometime around 4:30 on Kennicott's (RIO TINTO) property then blew across the highway onto our property. It started on our side by the water tower and headed north along the berm that separates our main building and the highway. Luckily we have really competent operators that fought the fire with the water truck and dozer, preventing the building from catching on fire, until the firefighters could show up and take over. The firefighters showed up and put the fire out. We had around ten acres or so get scorched and a couple power poles to Granger get toasted and need to be replaced. On the plus? side, the landfill now smells like smoked hickory which is nice....unless you have an office...because then it just burns your eyes.

Ironically, all the weed pulling we did a few posts back was really worthless since it would've gone up in flames anyway.

When the boss is gone...

Last week my boss, my supervisor, and Esther were gone...so I made a mess! It was fun. Craig, the operations manager, asked me about doing another riprap job but it ended up into a culvert replacement. The culvert that goes under the road and into the overflow pond was undersized (6" diameter) and was buried under at least 24" of sediment. We decided to replace it with 2-12" diameter HDPE pipes that had been left over from our LFG piping job. I got to be the foreman in charge of a backhoe, scraper, and dozer. We dug out the old culvert, replaced it with the new pipes, dug out the inlet side and the overflow pond, buried the new pipe, and re-graded the road.
An overview before we started

Laying the new pipe
Digging out the inlet side
View of new culvert and dug out inlet side
Grading and repairing road
Digging out the overflow pond

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Landfill Pioneer

I've been thinking of doing percolation tests here at the landfill for a long time now. We've been thinking of installing a drainfield in the active cell and running condensate or leachate into it to help with gas production. In order to properly design a drainfield, you need to know the percolation rate of the soil where the drainfield is going to be installed. I couldn't find anywhere where someone had done a perc test in garbage, so I think I'm the first one to ever do one...at least that's what I'm telling myself. First I had to dig the holes.

Esther and I started digging the holes, but only got 16 of the 36 inches deep after 1 1/2 hours of digging with a shovel, post hole digger, and breaker bar. That's when I decided to use the backhoe. It made the holes bigger than I wanted, but was a lot faster and easier, especially since I did three holes. Garbage sucks to dig through!
We then had to keep water in the holes for a couple of hours to saturate the soil. This proved to be difficult. I used our water truck to fill the holes with water, since that would be the most efficient, especially for the size of the hole. I started spraying, hoping that the hole would fill up quickly but that's not what happened. Even with the good compaction we are getting, there is still a large amount of pore space in garbage that water just moves right through it. After five minutes of filling with the fire hose from the water truck, the hole only filled in six inches. I decided I wasn't going to be able to fill the holes as much as I wanted. I filled the hole to about 10 inches and moved on to the next hole. I filled the next hole, again only to about ten inches, and checked on the first hole. The water was already gone. I looked at the second hole that I had just barely filled to ten inches and the water in that one was already gone. I had a feeling it was going to be quite difficult to keep the water level up for four hours.

The next day I went back out to run the actual perc test. Now in a perc test, after the soil (or in this case, the garbage) has been saturated you fill the hole with water and measure the time it takes for the water to drop i.e. minutes per inch. So I filled the hole with water and before I could fill the next hole, the water level, as it had before, dropped completely. I concluded that garbage has a really low (or in other words, a really fast) perc rate.

I decided to switch gears and try running a perc test in the native soil. I dug two holes in the native soil and started saturating them.

I'm pretty sure these tests are going to be much different. I saturated the holes but didn't have time to run the tests the next day, (I'll have to start over) but came back four days later to see that one of the holes still had water in it. I think this soil is a little less permeable than the garbage.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rocky Mountain Recyclers

Besides installing a new toilet, I had the opportunity to attend the open house for Rocky Mountain Recyclers yesterday. They expanded their existing building and added new state of the art sorting machines.
First the garbage is dropped on the "Tipping Face," then scooped by the loader into the machine

It is then pre-sorted by hand

It goes through a series of conveyors that sort

This optical sorter scans the product and uses discharges of air to pull out #1 and #2 plastic

This machines launches cans off the belt so they can be bailed into huge cubes

There's a magnet to pull out ferrous metals

Everything is then bailed and shipped out by rail car or semi-trailer

Other Jobs Not Specified

When I agreed to take this internship, I was told that it would involve engineering jobs and projects, and "other jobs not specified." I had one of those this week. We purchased a new toilet that is more wheelchair friendly, and I was chosen to take the old one out and replace it with the new one. I thought it would be entertaining to include it in my blog.

Here I am installing it

My boss performing the ceremonial "First Flush"

And beautiful finished product

Now here at the landfill, we're all about recycling and reusing, so when one of the supervisors mentioned that he needed a new chair I jumped on the opportunity to show my care for the environment.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!!

Monday, June 29, 2009


We finally got the riprap project finished. It took a couple months to finally get it done (that's what happens when you hesitate, and have to wait on personnel, and have to wait on nature) but we got it in. Here's how it went down: After I designed the channel, we got it cut and dressed by the end of May.

Here's the dozer starting the dressing.

And the grader making it look pretty.

The roller finished the job till we had this nice looking channel

This would have been great and all, but as mentioned in the previous post, the heavens opened up and it rained, and rained, and rained!! It rained so much that it turned my nice channel into a slot canyon.

Well, a month later after going through the wettest June in who knows how long, we re-cut the channel and re-dressed it. The operators here are really talented and did a great job. After they made and dressed the channel again, we got the membrane in. We used some of the leftover geonet that we use when lining our cells.

We then started placing the riprap

We dressed it and made it look awesome!

Isn't it beautiful?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rain, Rain, and More Rain

The heavens decided to open up! We've been getting random rain/hail storms that will hit pretty hard for ~15 minutes or so then stop, then hit 30 minutes later or so for 10-15 minutes. This wouldn't be as big of a problem if my riprap project were finished. We meant to finish it last week, but the failed drainfield put that on the side. I ordered the riprip and had it delivered, but it rained pretty hard before we could get it in.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Stocked Thick with Thistle

We finally got the two inch pipe junctioned into the pipe that used to go to the failed drainfield, and we closed of the flange to the drainfield. The new pipe travels about 3,000 feet around the old cell, along the south road, and down the active cell to the leachate pond. I surveyed where to place the pipe so that besides the first 6 feet, it would all be gravity fed. I'll post some pictures soon. I'm glad we finally got it going so we can keep pumping out the knockouts and help the engines more easily generate electricity. It got to where Esther and I were having to pump the box (see previous post for picture) every day to keep on top of it so they could work on the pipe. There is still some liquid in it, but I'm pretty sure it's just from the recent rain...especially since it doesn't smell like death mixed with garbage.

The other fun thing Esther and I get to do is...PICK WEEDS!!!! Not just weeds, but thistle!! How fun is that?... anyone?...anyone?...no?...nothing? Ok, you're right. Not so great. But important nonetheless. Thistle is a noxious weed, so we need to get rid of it. Some of them are pretty big, having bases that are just as thick as some of the couple year old trees I have at my house. Esther and I filled the back of the truck, but are just getting started. There are plenty more where that came from.

Joyfully digging out thistle

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last time I talked about the different tours Esther and I have been giving. Well we had a tour last week that wasn't so great. It was an elementary school, fourth graders I think. Well apparently one of the kids got car sick while on the bus ride here, and she threw up outside of my office...and it was projectile. One of the teachers cleaned it up, but used a Clorox cleaner, so my office smelled like a swimming pool for the rest of the afternoon...not so fun.

I've been working on drawing a Process and Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID) for our gas/leachate lines. In the process of doing that, we opened the valve box for one of our leachate/condensation injection lines and found that the box was half full of condensate. Now keep in mind, this is a bottomless box. That means that it had been leaking in it long enough to create a biofilm across the bottom of the box so that the liquid could not percolate through the soil. Luckily it's on the lined part of the landfill so we're not breaking any regulations. That was quite the mess, and quite the smell. We're still trying to figure out the problem with it. It looks like there was a small leak in the runoff line coming from the Public Convenience Center (PCC) but that was replaced and condensate and/or leachate is still leaking in. I'm afraid the drainfield has failed. If that's the case, we're going to need to install a new drainfield.
Here it is after most of it being pumped out.
Last week, Esther and I had the opportunity to go to the Recycling Coalition of Utah (RCU) Conference. It was interesting to talk to various people from the state that are also recycling oriented. There were people from recycling companies, landfills, to retail stores. We talked about what we could do to further promote recycling and how we could possibly change legislation to promote recycling practices. It was pretty interesting.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We've been doing a lot of tours lately. Usually it'll be elementary students on field trips or cub scout groups. It's nice to be able to tell them about the landfill, how it works, and the importance of recycling. We try and emphasize the recycling part the most. For me, one of the funnest parts is driving the shuttle. We have a shuttle bus that we purchased from a nearby retirement home, and it's a blast to cruise around in at the landfill.
The engines are finally back online. We're generating electricity again. Esther and I went out and serviced a couple of the knockout pumps and balanced some of the wells, so the engines should be getting good quality gas. They were struggling at first, generating barely over 3 MW at full bore. But we got most of the lines drained of condensate and they're running at around 3.5 MW without having to be full bore.
I think I've got my riprap channel completely designed. I'm just waiting for when we have an operator available to dress the channel and when I can purchase the riprap. I need to put more pictures up. Pictures are more interesting that words.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

So I found out I have allergies. Esther and I went out and spread seeds of native vegetation on various parts of the landfill to help with the aesthetics and erosion. We both had buckets we'd fill with the mix of seeds and would would spread the seeds by hand. By the time we were done, my arms were covered in rashes and I was sneezing like crazy (sorry, I don't have pictures.) Luckily, they went away relatively soon after I got back to the office and washed my hands.

A flow meter was recently installed so we can confirm that the pump I installed last year is pumping all the way to the drain field. I've been watching it lately and am happy to say the pump is working great! There's a trench in the bottom of the active cell, right next to the leachate pond, with a perforated pipe running along the bottom. The trench fills up with leachate before overflowing into the leachate pond. The pump I installed is in the pipe at the bottom of the trench and pumps leachate into a drainfield in the adjacent cell. This, hopefully, will help with decomposition and gas production in the adjacent cell.

This is me last year with the pump.

These are the flow meters and valves near the drainfield. The bottom one goes to my pump.

When I'm not out checking meters and getting rashes, I've been creating a map, with AutoCAD, of the various easements at the landfill. It's been a lot of interpreting legal documents and drawing the map according to the metes and bounds. It's almost like a game...maybe not.

Monday, May 11, 2009

So the first week went by pretty much without a hitch, and I do have quite the list of things to do. One thing I've done already is some leachate sampling from our leachate pond. That is always...fun?

Since I was already in the sampling mood, I figured "what the hey, I'll sample the compost as well.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

First Days Back

So I'm back at the landfill. I'm doing another engineering internship for Trans-Jordan Cities, like I did last summer. It's only been four days and I already have a lot to do and look forward to. Everything from verifying the quitclaim deed to installing rip rap for erosion control. It should keep me very busy the entire summer.