The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA), based in North Syracuse, New York, has been providing residents and businesses with a place to bring their recycling, construction and demolition (C&D) materials and trash for nearly 30 years.
Operating two transfer stations, two municipal food/yard waste processing facilities, and a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant in Onondaga County, OCRRA aims to provide a comprehensive solid waste system for the 33 municipalities it serves. But as seen in all industries, services evolve over time and operation regulations change, says Kristen Lawton, the agency’s public information officer.
In fall 2018, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) issued revised solid waste facility regulations. According to the new regulations, facilities like OCRRA’s Rock Cut Road Transfer Station, which handles larger C&D and commercial waste, must have all operations performed indoors.
“All tipping, sorting, processing, compaction, storage, loading and related activities, with the exception of those at residential drop-off locations for non-commercial customers, must be conducted in an enclosed building with adequate odor controls to effectively control off-site nuisances,” the state’s updated design and operating requirements state.
As reported by WSYR-TV, neither of OCRRA’s transfer stations housed operations inside, so the agency decided it would first address the new regulations at its Rock Cut Road Transfer Station. To meet the revised state regulations, the agency quickly filed a permit modification with the NYSDEC to undergo a sweeping renovation.
“Our transfer stations ... had reached their end of useful life and we needed to do something,” says Dereth Glance, executive director for OCRRA. “So, with the recent regulations coming out, [we were able to] ensure that our plans were going to be compliant with new requirements.”
STAYING UP TO DATE
Renovations began at the Rock Cut Road Transfer Station on Jan. 1, 2019, and the facility’s commercial customers were diverted to OCRRA’s Ley Creek Transfer Station in Liverpool, New York, which handles the county’s residential waste, until further notice.
“One of our priorities [with the retrofit of the Rock Cut Road facility] was to consolidate our operations,” says Glance. “What we primarily do at the transfer station is manage construction and demolition debris and bulky municipal solid waste, like couches, [from commercial haulers] that can’t be directly tipped at our local waste-to-energy plant.”
Instead of being sent right to a landfill, Glance says most of the waste collected at OCRRA’s transfer stations is sent to the county’s WTE facility where it is turned into enough electricity to power 30,000 homes a year.
The WTE facility, which reduces the amount of material that Onondaga needs to landfill by 90 percent, is located directly across the street from the Rock Cut Road facility, Glance adds. This accessibility creates significant savings in terms of transportation, time, costs and greenhouse gas emissions, making the Rock Cut Road facility a prime target for increased efficiency.
Included in the updates OCRRA made to the Rock Cut Road facility were new buildings, equipment and increased tipping and operational floor space.
“We got two new, beautiful scales, and we have a new building that’s dedicated to [our] smaller contractors, such as folks that need to tandem load from a box truck or a pickup truck, for example,” Glance says. “These customers now go directly into an enclosed building that has great separation and roll-off boxes.”
OCRRA also invested in upgraded HVAC systems and purchased a second TANA Shark waste shredder, replacing the agency’s previous diesel-powered machine.
The newly revised Rock Cut Road Transfer Station officially reopened on June 15, over a year and a half after the facility originally closed its doors.
Glance says the transfer station had a phased opening, with larger scale commercial haulers and small-business users that require a scale allowed to use the site first. By July, all commercial flat-rate customers were permitted to use the Rock Cut Road site.
“Ley Creek is the most antiquated of our sites, so coming to Rock Cut Road where [they have] not only new buildings, we’re talking about dumping within buildings, so that means environmentally it’s a much better operation,” Lawton told WSYR-TV. “You have noise reduction, litter reduction, you have stormwater improvements, as well. So, they’re really great regulations, we’re excited to be offering a better facility to our customers.”
Lawton adds the new-and-improved Rock Cut Road Transfer Station also offers a safer traffic pattern and the new automated scale is not only easier to use, but safer during the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased operational space.
“The [coronavirus] pandemic makes things a little more difficult to compare from year to year, but one of the great things about this facility is we have multiple loadouts,” Glance says. “At Ley Creek, there is only one ramp and the loader could only load one truck at a time. Here [at Rock Cut Road], we have about five loadouts able to occur at the same time, so that opportunity for throughput is really important.”
With the Rock Cut Road facility’s recent increased capacity, Glance says the priority now is to move as much material as possible.
“We realize there’s a lot of opportunity for us to get a little bit more tonnage per truck than we’re getting right now, so we’re looking at some different opportunities to increase that level of throughput,” she says.
In September, OCRRA issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) from interested and qualified engineering firms to support solid waste transfer optimization techniques for the agency’s operational facilities, including the recently modified Rock Cut Road station.
According to Glance, the anticipated support will help to determine how the agency can maximize throughput, while also remaining compliant with all NYSDEC waste management regulations.
“Now that we have the [Rock Cut Road] transfer station up and running and are working to continually optimize [that] facility for throughput and safety, we will be turning our attention to the residential drop-off services [at the Ley Creek facility],” she says.
Currently, the OCRRA has a survey out for community members to give direct feedback on what types of services they would like included, preferred locations and hours, and more. Glance says the agency’s board of directors will then consider those comments, along with the financial implications, to weigh different opportunities for a more efficient waste system.
“We’re looking at a variety of options, like if we should look for a new [transfer station] site, try different hours or if it’s better for us to just do a couple investments and improvements at Ley Creek to meet our residential customers’ needs,” she says. “I think those are the three main areas that we will be looking at to make a final decision once we receive additional feedback from the public.”
Glance adds, “We have three months under our belt [since the Rock Cut Road renovation was completed], so, obviously there’s a lot of opportunity for us to get better. It’s really just tweaking things with the right equipment as we get used to the best way to operate the facility.”