As Lena Road Landfill's lifespan winds down, Manatee County begins planning a waste transfer station
The waste management business is not as simple as finding a piece of land large enough to dump garbage without affecting the surrounding communities.
For example, there's the question of what happens when a landfill is too far away for garbage collectors and the community to effectively access it. That’s where a waste transfer station comes in, and Manatee County will need one when Lena Road Landfill closes in approximately 22 years.
With the county's $32.5 million purchase of 161 acres at State Road 64 and Lena Road, approved by the Manatee County Commission Oct. 13, comes plans for a waste transfer stations at the site.
The Observer spoke with Manatee County Utilities Director Mike Gore to learn about what a waste transfer station is and how the county will utilize one.
What is the purpose of a waste transfer station?
Gore said waste transfer stations are the links that connect local garbage collection — such as the garbage trucks that pick up trash from your home — with the final destination of a landfill. After collecting garbage along their routes, trucks drop garbage at the waste transfer station, where it is consolidated and loaded onto tractor trailers, which have can hold about three times more trash, for more efficient transportation to a landfill.
Why will Manatee County need a waste transfer station?
According to Gore, Lena Road Landfill has about 22 years of life remaining. Once it is full, a new landfill will open, likely in the far reaches of eastern Manatee County. It would take a lot of time and resources to send local garbage trucks to that site, so a centrally located waste transfer station will be constructed where local trucks can drop off their garbage. Because the county relies on private trash collectors, the rate citizens pay to have their garbage collected would rise if those collectors had to drive further to drop off their hauls.
When will Manatee County build the waste transfer station?
Gore said a transfer station will need to be operational by the time the Lena Road Landfill closes and the county’s next landfill opens. Design and construction of the station would probably begin in 18 or 19 years, three to four years before the Lena Road Landfill is projected to close.
Where will the waste transfer station be located?
He said the most likely scenario is building it on the 161 acres purchased at the corner of State Road 64 and Lena Road, adjacent to the site of the current landfill. Buying that land ensured the transfer station would not be built within the last available cell of Lena Road Landfill. Gore said doing so would have shortened the landfill’s lifespan by about six years, mainly because county engineers determined the roads for entry and exit to the transfer station would also need to be built within the site of the current landfill. However, there is no guarantee the just-purchased parcel will contain the waste transfer station. When it's time to start planning the transfer station, the county will search to make sure there isn't a better-suited parcel land available. Gore said he believes the transfer station will, indeed, be built on the land next to the landfill, but he said the primary factor to decide if a different piece of land could be better suited is whether its location will allow the county to charge Manatee citizens less money for trash collection, and whether a lower rate would offset the benefits of building the transfer station next to the current landfill. The 161 acres of land next to the landfill was bought in part because its central location should keep collection rates lower, but it's not impossible that unforeseen shifts in population density and other factors could change the situation in the coming years. Once the planning process is underway, likely in about 15 to 17 years, the county commission will make the final decision based on information and recommendations from the Utilities Department, among other factors.
What are the benefits of building the transfer station next to the current landfill?
Many of the facilities required for operating a waste transfer station are already in use at the landfill. For example, there are existing facilities and areas where the community can drop off yard waste, tires, batteries and more. These would need to be built if the county chooses to put the transfer station on another site. There is also a stormwater system in place already. Finally, Gore said a station next to the current landfill could be operated with less staff because there will already be some maintenance staff there to take care of the Lena Road Landfill after it closes.