Cape Gazette

More to trash than you think

By Ron MacArthur | Jul 23, 2013
Photo by: Ron MacArthur Household waste is moved around the landfill throughout the day. DNREC regulations require that waste be covered at the end of each day's work.

There's a lot of science going into handling and disposing of the 200,000 tons of trash generated each year in Sussex County. Since the Southern Solid Waste Management Center landfill started operation in 1984, nearly 5 million tons of waste have been dumped at the site along Route 20 near Hardscrabble.

Three cells are filled and a fourth is nearing its capacity at the 570-acre facility, also known as Jone's Crossroads. A fifth cell has been constructed and went into operation in late May, said James Vescovi, facility manager.

Today, 22 people are employed at the facility.

A telltale sign of the growth of the county is about half of the total waste disposed of at the 29-year-old landfill has been hauled there over the past eight years. At 200 feet above sea level, the landfill is by far the highest point on the Sussex landscape.

The first cell, constructed at a cost of $2.5 million, opened for business in 1984. Cell 2 opened in 1988; cell 3 in 1996; and cell 4 in 2000. Construction of cell 4 cost nearly $12 million. Cells 1 and 2 are covered in polypropylene; cell 3 has been merged with cell 4.

There is no more monitored acreage in the county. The air, groundwater, soil and even stormwater is monitored and must meet strict Environmental Protection Agency guidelines monitored by Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. And as much as possible is recycled.

Since the cells are eventually covered and moisture is restricted, decomposition slows and becomes stable. More moisture can be added to reactivate decomposition, but more methane gas is also produced, Vescovi said. "Now we don't need more gas," he said.

On an average day, about 360 vehicles deposit about 725 tons of trash per day at the landfill. Vescovi said the landfill's busiest day occurred on Sept. 18, 2003, the day after Hurricane Isabel passed off the coast. Nearly 940 customers went through the weigh station in 10 hours – that's 94 vehicles per hour.


The Delaware Solid Waste Authority's landfill at Jone's Crossroads is 200 feet above sea level. Officials say the cell will be used another two to five years for construction and demolition waste recycling and closed after about 15 years of service. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The liner of the fifth cell at the facility is in place; it covers almost 30 acres and contains several computerized monitoring systems. The cell went into operation in late May. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
M.C. Gubbels, a weigh master at Jone's Crossroads scale house, creates a computerized record of types of waste and a variety of other data for each customer entering the landfill. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
About 75 large trash haulers back into and dump household waste at the landfill each week. A typical truck can pack 14 to 19 tons of trash. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Construction waste is not dumped in with household waste. It's grinded and used as a mulch-type, cover material. Metals are removed by a large magnet and recycled; wallboard is also removed and recycled. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
A grinder, in the foreground, is used to chop up construction waste. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The Delaware Solid Waste Southern Authority's Solid Waste Management Center – better known as Jone's Crossroads – is one of three landfill facilities in the state. DSWA also operates three transfer stations and five bag collection sites. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Vehicles are weighed as they leave the Jone's Crossroads Landfill. It costs $84 a ton to dispose of waste at the landfill. When the landfill opened in September 1984, the cost per ton was $22. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
DSWA environmental technician Melvin Durand is shown monitoring the performance of a landfill gas well. Monitoring enables DSWA to provide gas to a 5 megawatt gas power plant on site. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The first two cells used for landfills are covered with a large polypropylene material that is in the process of being replaced. It covers 43 acres. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Workers are in the process of removing and recovering the original landfill cells at Jone's Crossroads. The 15-year-old cover has been damaged by ultraviolet light.
A crew is providing a stabilizing cover to the current cell to keep rainwater from penetrating the landfill. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Leachate waste water is stored in tanks and treated at wastewater treatment facilities in the county. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Instead of making the drive up the landfill hill, most people choose to use a drop-off collection station located near the entrance. The waste is later transported by truck to the landfill. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Another option to waste disposal is using one of three transfer stations in the state; the local station is located along Route 5 between Harbeson and Long Neck. A contractor loads trash and recyclables into trucks throughout the day for transport to Jone's Crossroads. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Carlos Melendez finishes placing a tarp on a trailer of trash. The trailer is prepared to leave for the Southern Solid Waste Management Center. DSWA contracts Independent Transfer Operations to operate the Route 5 transfer station. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
A truck backs into the Route 5 transfer station to dump a load of trash. Haulers have the option to use the transfer station or the landfill. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The Route 5 transfer station was opened in 2006 as an option for trash haulers and residents to reduce vehicle emissions and cut costs. Prior to the opening of the facility, all trash had to be hauled directly to the landfill. The transfer station handles more than 220 tons per day.
Household waste piles up in the transfer station before being loaded into trucks headed for the landfill.
Most people are not aware that landfill gases are collected and used to generate electricity at a 5 megawatt on-site plant operated by Ameresco. The plant has been open since 2006. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Comments (1)
Posted by: PATRICIA SIBERT | Jul 24, 2013 07:52

Very interesting and informative article.  Thanks, Ron!

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The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.