Travis County Commissioners Court
July 17, 2007
Now, on 24, mr. Joseph is here. 24 I want to lay out before the court and bring this back next week if we we want to. 24. Consider and take appropriate action on waste management offer to partner with Travis County to transport leachate from its facility by sharing lift station. We have waste management representatives here, if one of you will come forward, both of you are welcome. Sorry to cut you off. >> that's all right. [one moment please for change in captioners] >> mr. Joseph and his client approached me several months ago. They have the same issue with the adjoining landfill. They've got leachate they are currently either recycling it on-site or trucking it for disposal. And they requested they wanted to find out if the county was interested in sharing its effluent line so they could also transport theirs directly to the city of Austin. The city was agreeable to that proposal, but they didn't own the line. We, Travis County, owns the line and the lift station. Waste management, a private entity to enter into an agreement with the city of Austin, they would have to have our permission to use the line. The city basically wants us to transfer own ship of the lift station and the line to the city of Austin so then they can contract with waste management to use it to transport their waste. Because we have a capital investment, I responded by suggesting that waste management should pay for the capital costs of our line and perhaps 50% of the remaining value of that line. And they're agreeable to doing that. So as part of the deal, waste management would pay Travis County about $237,000 to use the lift station and the effluent line. The city would also require waste management to upgrade the lift station to current standards, and waste management would have to do that at their cost. Waste management would vools to pick up the cost of operating and maintaining the line and the lift station. But the economics is such that that would be less expensive in continue to go haul the effluent -- leachate by truck. There are several irkz associated with -- several issues associated with this. One, we have the license agreement we have with the robinson family. They are the original owners of the landfill site. They still own the land. And we have a license agreement under which we have located the -- not only the portion of the leachate line, the force main, but also the lift station. For the city to use those facilities and own them, they would have to have a permanent easement for the line and lift station. So that would be the first issue we would have to overcome is make sure that the robinson family would grant that easement the second and more important is the commingling of leash eight. We have leachate coming from two landfills. You understand the county is responsible for the quality of leachate coming out of the landfill. They would want to ensure that there was a separate monitoring of the leachate so if there was contamination cocking from one or the other, we would want to know that. >> but that is doable. >> it is. It would require monitoring stations to be installed, but it can be done. I think the county attorney office would want to weigh in on some point on the liability issues, the legal liabilities, and I really haven't consulted john or anyone about this. >> it cost us $625,000 to bring this particular operation to the old Travis County landfill. What would that cost number today's dollars? Could we get an estimate of what that construction to run a main, tying it into the force main, the lift station, just the whole nine yards? What would that cost in today's dollars? >> well, we paid 600 some-odd thousand, it's probably close to a million dollars today. To replicate what the county put in. >> okay. I've got a lot of questions, but I'm going to let you proceed with what you're saying, but I wanted to throw that out. >> the next issue is flow management. I do have a typographical error in my memo. It's a 20,000-gallon storage tank, not a 20-gallon. But what we do is we have 15 wells on the site that draw up the leachate from the landfill. And that gets pumped to a 20,000-gallon storage tank. That then discharges to the force main. And so when it fills up, discharges, it takes about two hours for that to fully empty out. With two landfills using the same line, we would want to make sure that we had the capacity when we needed it, Travis County, to empty our tanks out. And so we'd want to maintain the ability to flow our leachate whenever necessary. So that would be another issue we would have to work out. Again, it's probably a matter of some technology to assure that that can happen. One, it would be perhaps a requirement of waste management to create perhaps some excess storage capacity for their leachate in the event that they had to store longer to allow us to discharge ours. Then finally, as you know, waste management has sought permission from the tceq to expand its landfill. We have opposed that permit and we would want to make sure that nothing we do in accommodating their leachate would enable them to use the same line to expand the landfill. I think what we're talking about is an existing condition. We would want this to be seen as an enabling the expansion. So we would want some language in our contract that would be very specific on that regard. But basically, today's item is just to bring it to the court to get a sense of the court, is it worth pursuing. If so, I think there's still a lot of technical and legal work that we need to happen to make this come about, and including some discussions with the city of Austin. >> joe, there are some costs associated with the operations, utilities, how much the utilities cost with this particular operation that we now are involved in, along with the amount of money that the city of Austin charges us to enter leachate into their force main. What is that total cost? >> we currently pay about $2,000 per year for electricity to operate the -- not only the lift station pump, but also the 15 well pumps. I don't know right now what portion of the 2,000 goes to the lift station and how much goes to the 15 pumps, but I imagine a preponder rens of that goes to our own pumps on site, just for electricity. $30,000 we pay per year to the city of Austin is for the treatment of our leachate. It doesn't have tornado watch do with the lift station or the force main itself, it's basically the number of gallons we pump, they charge outside the amount of effluent we discharge. So that would be -- continue to be an ongoing expense for Travis County. So those are not something that would be affected by this contract. >> right. In other words, regardless of what happens, whether -- if this court decides to enter into a partnership with wmt or not, that's an ongoing cost that we will still have to bear, period. >> that's right. We do have another cost that I didn't nut the memo, but the 15 pumps that we have installed are coming up for some significant upgrades, so we'll have to have -- there's a capital cost on the horizon. We'll have to go back out and rehab the pumps. According to dave fowler, who is basically on top of this for the tnr, that will range between three and five thousand dollars per pump. So at some point we've got a capital cost that we're going to come to the court for to basically keep those pumps running. So one benefit the county may have in this is that we have a source of capital funding to keep our operations going. >> I guess there's a lot of things that can be fleshed out. I guess I'm thinking about the massive -- for example, the massive rain that we have just experienced. And of course, that causes a problem with the capacity as far as those particular lift stations and also the force main. You have sometimes problems. So my concern is even with those kind of situations, who is going to accept responsibility for certain situations that do crop up and did crop up in this last big flood event that we just here just recently? When you have leachate that may appear in areas where it shouldn't be. It shouldn't be in the main, but it pop up somewhere. So who is going to point the finger at whose responsibility that is? And you can answer that later. Another situation I'd like to bring up is as far as the responsibility as far as what the community have continued to come before this court and testify, I've heard several times that there have been thousands and thousands of barrels, 55-gallon drums, barrels buried out there somewhere of hazardous material. Now, I really don't know. I can't substantiate that, but that's what was given and brought to the attention of this Commissioners court. And I don't know if those things are ready to leak, what actually buried out there. I really don't have any idea. But I do know that there's only certain -- the way I understand it, how and what will happen -- and you had an answer earlier, but I'm concerned about hydrocarbons. There's certain things that can enter that line and it can't be accepted because it can't be treated, like the hydrocarbon stuff. These are hazardous stuff. Some concerns about that -- and not a final question, but another question is we jumped on an opportunity to deal with the leachate problem out there. The Travis County closed landfill out there was not the only landfill that experienced leachate problems. Other landfills also had similar problems. My question is why didn't they address their concerns at that time to deal with the leachate situation? Seeing that Travis County was dealing with it also in a format where maybe we could get this in some kind of control, and why now? I guess I'm directing that to the wmi folks. >> my name is john joseph. >> how you doing? >> fine, thank you. How you doing? It's been recirculated and hauled off by truck. It seemed like a good time and opportunity to try and do something with the city of Austin to put it into city of Austin's wastewater system. Waste management could do its own lift station and force main, but I believe there's capacity in the force main and there's capacity in the lift station, so it seemed like a good idea to see if Travis County wanted to do something together with respect to that leachate disposal. We made a request to the city of Austin for a service lateral, service extension request, to dispose of the leachate into the system, which is the beginning of the process. And then they asked us to come forward with some engineering detail on how to make that happen. Long story short, it came around to why don't y'all use the lift station that the county has, and that force main, but the lift station that the county has and maintaining is old and doesn't meet the city of Austin's current standards, so you guys would have to bring it up to new current standards, which means basically you will build a new lift station. So we made the tiewfer the county because -- we made the offer to the county because it seemed like a logical and environmentally sensitive way of handling the leachate than either circulating it and then putting it in a truck and hauling it someplace else. It just seemed like less opportunity for environmental problem. And so that's why where we are right now, the opportunity presented itself now. The option still exists for us to build a lift station of our own and a force main of our own, but it seems like a waste to do that when we could work together to upgrade the lift station -- actually, waste management would be paying all the costs of the upgrading of the lift station and rebuilding it and paying Travis County for the share of the use of the force main. So the county is not out any additional money at all. The city of Austin has had us come forward with the testing and monitoring program for the leachate so that we know what's in it and it is treatable at the wastewater treatment plant when it gets there. And also that the force main is not going to be used at the same time as Travis County. It's going to be used alternatively. Travis County's leachate will go through, and then when that's out, waste management's will go through. There will not be a point in time where they will use the lift station at the same time. There will be be ponding or some sort of storage requirement. So it's my understanding that it's used alternatively and not at the same time. >> but you wouldn't have any difficulty in doing one yourself if it came to be just that, would you? >> we wouldn't have any choice. We just thought it would be a better idea. >> I understand. Okay. Thank you. >> the proposal, this proposed agreement is the 237,500-dollar payment as well as something to the tune of a 45 to 60,000-dollar upgrade. Is that what the capital costs of the upgrade would be? >> no. It's about 475,000-dollar cost for the design, engineering and construction of the upgrade of the lift station. It's a 236,000-dollar -- 237,000-dollar cost on the force main. >> right. The 237,000 -- it's the 237,000 for the remaining utility? >> for a portion of the force main. That's paid to the county. >> and that was my estimate. I took a straight line depreciation -- >> straight line depreciation looking at a 50% remaining value over what period of time? >> 20 years. >> over a 20 year time period? >> and so that -- you could probably disagree with the 50/50 part of it. You could do it on volume or some other basis. It was basically a way to say how much have we used up, how much is left over. And if you paid for half of it, what would we have. >> the current permit expires when? >> there is no time expiration date on the permit. >> under current capacity, under the capacity in your current permit, what's the time estimate? >> once again I have to be weaselly. It depends on incoming volumes. At current incoming rates, it's about eight years. And if I could, just to give smu additional background -- >> y'all would be in the same position we're in now even if you closed the (indiscernible). So the future leachate problems that have you to deal with one way or the other. >> for at least 30 years after we're closed we have to handle the leachate. >> what year are we on our 30 year deal snirks you shouldn't be on a 30 year dial. Deal. Firks we've been looking at this issue. We do have to deal with the leachate. As john mentioned there's a number of different ways we do it. Since 2002 up until close of business last night, we've hauled in excess of 10 million gallons of leachate off the site in tanker truck. That's about 1600 trucks driving up and down the road. When we started looking at this, this was an toafert get the trucks off the road and save us some money. We started looking at a number of options. Most if not all of these questions that you asked about the source of the leachate, the commingling, the pumping sequences, were all questions we had to address with the city of Austin. We looked be at running a parallel line across your property and our property. We have the cost to on do that. As we started looking at it, we saw where the county has anna nicole smith ta kuwaited lift station that has issued. We thought for a similar amount of money for us, we could provide an up to date lift station for the county that could help us both out. The way the system works we have storage capacity on site. If the county needs it, the county yiews it. If they don't need it, we'll use it. We can't both pump at the same time. The source of the liquids is identified by the city. The industrial waste issues that you brought up are clearly addressed in the city or to the city's benefit that that waste, that liquid does not get into the pond, so they know where it's coming from. A lot of these issues can be worked through here. The bottom line is we saw this as a win-win for both us and the county to provide an updated facility for you to provide a more economical, reliable source and get about 150 trucks sometimes a month off the road. If it's not, we can look at another way to do it. There is another way we can do it without running across the line and tying into your system. That's what we're looking at. >> that's why I put it on the agenda. On surface it makes sense. There may be an undercurrent issues and arguments, but from a sort of leachate disposition and environmental and cost perspective, it makes all the sense in the world. Anyway, let's think about it between now and next Tuesday. We'll let you know finally next Tuesday. We got the request probably a month and a half ago. We got the letter back in March. I kicked it to joe. He did a little research. We kind of put it on the back burner and then concluded let's take it to court and get the court response. >> this is new for me. >> when I say we put it on the back burner, I think joe and I both hoped it would go away. [ laughter ] >> I just heard about it just -- the latter part of last week, I think. So all this is new information. And of course, I have to be -- this particular operation is located in precinct 1. That's the presick I represent. So -- that's the precinct I represent. So I ask the hard, tough questions. So I hope y'all understand. >> see you next week.
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Last Modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 18:30 AM