Houston landfill gets unique new bulldozer

wcrenshaw@macon.comDecember 7, 2013 

Houston County purchasing agent Mark Baker, left, and landfill superintendent Terry Dietsch check out a new half-million dollar bulldozer delivered Thursday.

WAYNE CRENSHAW — wcrenshaw@macon.com

KATHLEEN -- The Houston County landfill operations took a big step forward this week with the delivery of a unique new half-million dollar bulldozer.

The 2014 Caterpillar D7RE arrived Thursday, about six weeks after the county commissioners approved the purchase.

The item was much needed, said Operations Director Robbie Dunbar, because the landfill requires two bulldozers, and one has been out of service since its transmission blew, although it was due to be replaced anyway.

The job of the bulldozer is to spread the garbage out as it is dumped, then a compactor rolls over the waste. The process is designed to reduce as much as possible the amount of space taken up in the landfill. They aim to get 900 pounds or more of garbage into a cubic yard.

“Airspace is very expensive in a landfill,” Dunbar said. “You want to be as efficient as you can with every cubic foot of volume you have permitted (by the state).”

The new bulldozer is unique in that it operates like a locomotive. It has a diesel generator that powers an electric motor that drives the dozer. It costs about $100,000 more than a standard diesel dozer of the same model but is expected to use at least 25 percent less fuel. The landfill is estimated to recoup the extra cost in three years or less.

Two dozers are needed because the landfill operates one area for construction and demolition debris and another for regular garbage. Dunbar said the landfill has been moving its one dozer back and forth between the two, but it doesn’t make for an efficient operation. If the delivery of the dozer had taken longer, the county would have had to look at leasing one in the meantime.

The dozer was purchased from Yancey Bros. Co. of Macon for $505,614, with $65,000 taken off that for trade-in of the dozer with the blown transmission.

Landfill Superintendent Terry Dietsch said the dozer has several features that make it different from a standard construction dozer, including a fire suppression system. That’s because of the risk of debris getting caught up in dozer parts.

It also will be able to use GPS technology to ensure the landfill is at the correct grade level allowed in its permit, which is expected to save money.

“If you are filling a landfill with garbage, you can only go to a certain elevation,” Dietsch said. “If you are digging out a new cell, preparing for a landfill, you can only go down to a certain elevation. You either have to put more material in or take more material out, and you are guessing right now.”

No tax dollars were required to buy the dozer. The landfill is a self-sufficient operation funded entirely by per-ton fees for waste. Its next major equipment purchase is expected in a couple of years when a compactor is due to be replaced. That is expected to cost about $800,000, and Dietsch said the landfill will have the money on hand for that as well.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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