TEC helps limit downtime
Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018, with devastating Category 5 winds, leaving behind a path of destruction and a long road to recovery. Cleanup efforts began soon after the storm dissipated as houses, buildings and entire neighborhoods were buried in debris. Local landfill services, including Waste Pro’s Florida Panhandle facilities, began taking in and sorting through material to support the recovery process.
“It was like operating at a junior store one day and flipping it to a mall the next day,” described Vic Williams, C&D Division Landfill Manager for Waste Pro’s sites in the panhandle. “The volume coming into the landfills changed drastically overnight, and we had to make that transition quickly. Director of Operations Neil Wood was instrumental in bringing extra crews through the first three months to help us efficiently shift from small to large-scale operations.”
Williams oversees seven Waste Pro locations in northern Florida that range from 30 to 70 acres. The company works closely with FEMA, which provided funding for the cleanup work. To make the transportation and removal of debris more efficient, FEMA designated what Waste Pro location will service certain areas affected by the storm.
“We have four sites that were directly in the path of the hurricane. They are taking in material from FEMA, private contractors and our own trucks,” stated Williams. “Three of those sites were operating pre-storm, and we reopened a cell at the fourth location from its mothball status to increase our capabilities. Our capacity and the amount of material that arrives daily has increased seven to eight times since the hurricane.”
Combing through debris
For many employees, working for Waste Pro is not only a job, but also a way to give back to the community. Landfill Operations Manager Steve Barrentine recognizes the impact his work has on the community.
“I’m sixth generation to this area, and the landscape has forever changed for me, my family and the residents of this region,” noted Barrentine. “Every item that arrives is from someone’s property or neighborhood. With each load that is removed, it brings a family one step closer toward a return to normalcy.”
Once material is on-site, Waste Pro takes multiple steps to separate and organize it for proper disposal. The facilities were originally developed as C&D-only operations, but have since added metal and C3 material-separation processes and storage areas to handle the various items mixed in with loads from the storm-impacted area.
“We separate the hurricane debris into numerous groups because many of the items are buried or disposed of differently,” explained Williams. “We’ve added areas for the vegetation to break down, locations for the metals to be piled up and the undesirable waste to be trucked away, as well as additional cells to bury the C&D.
“There are several reasons why we separate material,” continued Williams. “One is because careful placement of materials maximizes airspace. Another is we get paid for metals that are recycled. Of course, we also remove any non-C&D items during this process.”
The right tools
The increase in material coming to each site meant that Waste Pro needed extra equipment. It turned to Tractor and Equipment Company (TEC) Vice President/Panama City Branch Manager Chuck Tibbets to find the right machines.
“We had a great need for new equipment immediately after the storm, and Tractor and Equipment was an excellent help with that,” noted Williams. “We added newer excavators, dozers and wheel loaders to supplement our existing reliable Komatsu products.”
Waste Pro’s fleet of Komatsu equipment for its panhandle operations includes excavators ranging from a PC138 to PC210, dozers from D51 to D155AX and multiple WA320 wheel loaders. The D155AX dozers are outfitted with trash racks to prevent larger material from rolling over the blade. At its Southport, Fla., C&D landfill, operators use a Komatsu PC210 excavator with a hydraulic thumb.
“We use the PC210 in an area we can’t reach with a dozer because the material is piled very high and results in a steep slope near the drop-off location,” explained Barrentine. “As operators are moving along, they’re separating undesirable materials that could be a hazard to the environment, personnel or to our equipment. Just one item, such as a propane tank, could cause a serious problem.
“The hydraulic thumb allows an operator to grab material from any stance and place it accordingly,” continued Barrentine. “It also helps the operator take as little or as much material as necessary by utilizing the power of the machine.”
The company uses its Komatsu WA320 wheel loaders to move items around the jobsite and spread fill in between layers of compacted C&D. It uses the Komatsu D155AX dozer to crush and compact material using the machine’s narrow tracks and nearly 90,000 pounds of weight.
Williams’ familiarity with TEC’s service played a role in his decision to partner with them.
“We’re busy, so it’s important the equipment stays running and we limit downtime,” stated Williams. “TEC has been flexible about servicing the machines around our schedule because we’re running seven days a week from daylight to dark. Their service techs come on weekends, at night or during slower times to keep us going. They continue to do their part in making sure we are able to accommodate the needs created by the hurricane.”
Cleanup is expected to continue for the next two to five years. Lowest estimates indicate the storm left behind 20 million cubic tons of debris.
“We’re going keep doing what we do. Load by load, board by board, we’re getting there,” stated Barrentine. “For the next few years, the storm cleanup should be a healthy portion of our business with a lot of volume coming in. We’ll continue to serve the area and help restore the communities that were affected.”