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Knoxville facility tackles solid waste.

For thirty years, the mantra of the waste management field has been "Reuse, Reduce, Recycle." With the opening of its new $2.5-million facility on Earth Day 1997, the city of Knoxville has not only "Talked the Talk," but has also "Walked the Walk" of the three Rs. Through careful and thoughtful planning and design, the city has reused and recycled an existing site into one of the premier waste management facilities in the state.

The new waste management complex was constructed on the site of the existing transfer station, built in 1972. Before its restructuring, the site housed the city, incinerator and later was an operation center for garbage collection. For over 20 years, all garbage collected from Knoxville homes was taken through the transfer station, loaded on trucks, and hauled to the landfill.

"When the transfer station opened, it was considered 'state of the art'," says Ed Umbach, solid waste manager for Knoxville. "However, it was virtually unchanged since it opened. The needs of our area have changed, and the way cities are handling garbage in the 1990s has completely changed. We realized that it was time to update our site and methods for handling our waste stream to better serve the needs of our citizens. We needed a way to provide efficient transfer, more recycling, and collection of household hazardous wastes."

Planning for the project began two years ago with the completion of several feasibility studies. The city asked Draper Aden Associates to complete the transfer station analysis, while Draper Aden Associates in tandem with the Waste Watch Center was contracted to complete the household hazardous waste study.

"Although Draper Aden Associates specializes in solid waste management, we felt that we needed the most knowledgeable source we could find on household hazardous waste management," says Lynn Croy, project manager for Draper Aden Associates. "We found it in the Waste Watch Center, which has worked nationally in this field. From the beginning, we had the benefit of their data and hands-on knowledge."

Draper Aden Associates and Reynolds Architects, Inc., both of Blacksburg, Virginia, were contracted as the project engineer and architect respectively for the final design. These firms worked as a team with the city in completing the final design of the complex and its components.


Once the project's concepts and costs were identified, the city staff moved forward, developing the funding resources. Tennessee already had a funded program for household hazardous waste (HHW) management that revolved around periodic collection days (usually one per year for most localities). However, the state felt that large municipalities would be ideal candidates to receive funds for constructing permanent HHW facilities, and offered funds to several Tennessee cities, with Knoxville being the first to accept. Of the $2.5 million needed for the project, the state provided $500,000 for the placement of a permanent HHW management facility on site.

"The timing was perfect for the state to offer these funds for a HHW facility," says Ed Umbach." We knew that there was a need in our area for a permanent, accessible facility. The popularity of our one-day HHW collection events over the past few years confirmed this. Each event brought over 1,000 participants and many of the cars that came exceeded their per car limit of 100 pounds of HHW. We were also routinely receiving hundreds of phone calls per month related to the collection of HHW. Thirty percent of those calls required immediate access to the HHW program. The solution for us was to include the HHW facility in our plans for the site and the state funding made that happen."


The final complex contains three major facilities: the transfer station, the recycling/baling operation, and the HHW management facility.

Transfer Station. To make the transfer station operation more efficient and to eliminate residential street use, the entire traffic pattern was redesigned. The entrance and exit to the facility were moved to divert traffic and noise from a nearby neighborhood. In addition, extensive landscaping shielded the site from the neighborhood's view. A computerized scale system was added to allow more rapid traffic flow, and a large cueing lane prevents vehicles from backing up onto city streets. All waste is now discharged onto a tipping floor and pushed into compaction pits. The old compaction units were replaced, and a new bay allows Class III/IV waste to be segregated and loaded into an open-top trailer. During construction/renovation, waste was rerouted to two temporary transfer areas on site. Other provisions were made to keep construction on schedule but to minimize the impact on the flow of waste into and out of the facility.

Recycling. A small MRF was built on the site to further the city's recycling effort. Material such as cardboard is diverted and baled on site. With the location's ample storage space and loading dock, the city can stockpile recyclables before they are marketed. The city also purchased a compartmentalized recycling trailer, allowing the facility to be a drop-off point for a wide variety of recyclables.

Household Hazardous Waste. The HHW facility is the most noteworthy component of the new complex. Activities at the facility include: diverting reusable products; collecting, blending and recycling latex paint; collecting car batteries, oil, and antifreeze; and packing miscellaneous HHW materials for safe shipment and disposal.

Upon entering the HHW facility, individuals pull into a covered drive-through, where the staff removes HHW from the vehicles. Material that is still "good" is separated and made available for pickup by the public free of charge. "Good" material includes containers that have never been opened or material that has not exceeded its useful shelf life. "We have seen this type of program used successfully around the country and it seems to be very popular with the citizens," says Ed Umbach.

The staff then processes materials that are not reusable. This includes testing of unknown materials, diverting selected acid and bases to the wastewater treatment facility, venting aerosols, bulking flammable materials, lab packing, and blending paint. Latex-based paint is sent to a local firm to be remanufactured and returned to the city for Knoxville Community Development Corporation and Habitat for Humanity projects.

After the material is processed, the non-recyclable HHW is put into 55-gallon drums and then into one of two prefabricated storage units. "Each of these units has electronic monitoring and security, fire suppression systems, and drainage/spill containment systems," says Kelly Drake, a city-employed chemist who works on site.

The hazardous materials identified and stored in the facility will be held until sufficient quantities are collected. The city has contracted with Clean Harbors for the transfer and disposal of the material. After one month of operation, the HHW facility attracted over 400 customers and more than 1,000 gallons of HHW.

"We were very fortunate that all of the factors needed to construct this unique facility presented themselves at the same time," observed Umbach. "We knew that we had to do something with the existing transfer station and needed to expand the scope of waste management services that we offered our citizens. The funding from the state for the Household Hazardous Waste Facility really helped us move forward and design and build a very unique complex. I am very proud to be associated with providing this level of capability and services to the citizens of Knoxville and Knox County; not only for the present, but for the future."

"I have to look back at the 'before' pictures to remind myself how far we've taken the facility", says Croy. "Blaine Construction made the construction look easy when the whole time they had to balance their schedules with the daily operations of the transfer station. Their sensitivity to the needs of the city and their pride in their work was critical in making the project successful. The project was completed on time, on budget, and with little disruption to service. My hat is off to Knoxville and Blaine on this project!"

Mr. Denny was formerly Director of Marketing, Draper Aden Associates, and is now an independent marketing specialist. Ms. Croy is Project Manager, Draper Aden Associates. Mr. Umbach is Solid Waste Manager, Knoxville, Tennessee.
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Title Annotation:new waste management complex in Knoxville, Tennessee
Author:Denny, David W.; Umbach, Edward J.; Croy, Lynn
Publication:Public Works
Date:Feb 1, 1998
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