The Ridge Landfill, owned by Canadian Waste Services Inc., is one of the most important landfill assets in Canada. Sitting near Chatham, Ontario on the much-traveled commercial corridor between Windsor/Detroit and Ontario cities to the east, the facility receives a significant amount of industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) waste from across the province, plus some garbage from nearby municipalities.
This important asset may be put up for sale due to a ruling from the federal Competition Tribunal (currently under appeal) that insufficient competition will exist without such a divestiture.
The situation has attracted interest from across the country and waste management professionals want to know more about the Ridge Landfill.
The BFI deal
In 1999, Allied Waste Industries, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, purchased all the assets of Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) in North America for the sum of US $8-billion. Subsequently, Allied Waste made a corporate decision to divest all the former BFI assets it owned in Canada.
In 2000, Canadian Waste Services (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Waste Management Inc. of Houston, Texas – the world’s largest waste management and recycling company) announced that it would purchase all the BFI assets owned by Allied Waste in Canada.
The Canadian Competition Bureau became involved upon the filing of the regulatory documents for this transaction. Discussions between the Competition Bureau and Canadian Waste ensued.
In light of these discussions a group of investors formed BFI Canada by purchasing the use of the BFI trademark in Canada from Allied Waste. The new BFI Canada also purchased certain assets about which Canadian Waste and the Competition Bureau agreed there were competition concerns. The Competition Bureau allowed the main transaction to proceed between Allied Waste and Canadian Waste for the balance of the BFI assets, except for one: the Ridge Landfill.
CWS took the position that the Ridge Landfill did not have to be divested and the Competition Bureau thought otherwise. The main transaction went ahead and a Consent Interim Order was created to deal with the differing opinions about the Ridge Landfill.
The Consent Interim Order allowed Canadian Waste to buy the landfill but required it to be held in trust and operated by an independent manager (Hugh Thomas Consulting Ltd.) and an independent monitor (Deloitte and Touche) until the disagreement with the Competition Tribunal is resolved. The litigation between Canadian Waste and the Competition Bureau continues to this day, with the Competition Bureau saying the landfill must be sold and the company arguing that it can overcome the competition problem by selling a certain amount of the landfill air space to competitors. The Deutsche Bank out of New York was retained some time ago to solicit expressions of interest in the event the landfill must be sold, but nothing has happened pending the most recent appeal (about which a decision is expected soon).
The facility & operations
The Ridge Landfill is located on a 131 hectare site enclosed by a chain-link fence. It faces two roadways and is blocked from public view by high, landscaped and treed berms. (See photo.) Trucks hauling to the site leave Highway 401 at Highway 40 traveling south. The paving of municipal roads from the main highway to the facility were paid for by the facility owner at a cost of $2-million.
Upon entering the site vehicles travel on a paved roadway to the weigh scales (which have an attached office building) that are set back to provide adequate vehicle storage. From the scales vehicles travel another paved road that runs parallel to the cell construction, then to the “working face” of the landfill on a gravel road (which is relocated as cells are developed).
An onsite maintenance building houses equipment for repairs to landfill equipment. There’s no MRF at the site, but the landfill funds an annual HHW collection day three locations within the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.
A gas collection system is to be installed in the landfill in the near future, in accordance with the Certificate of Approval. In terms of what lines the landfill, a layer of re-compacted clay covers the outside slopes of the cell excavations. There is no geotextile-type liner across the entire landfill footprint because the facility sits on a deep layer of natural clay material that extends 150 ft. beneath the site. However, geotextiles are in place to protect the leachate under-drain system from becoming clogged with silt and waste.
The Ridge Landfill has undergone several expansions, with four cells constructed in recent years. The expanded landfill began accepting waste in January 2000. The estimated capacity at that time was 13.6 million tonnes; it was therefore expected to have an operating lifespan of 20 years at a waste acceptance rate of 680,000 metric tonnes per year. Approximately 12 million tonnes of capacity remain, as well as additional space for 4.38 million tonnes of bioremediated soil.
About 90 per cent of the waste accepted at the facility is IC&I. The remaining 10 per cent is municipal waste residue from Essex, Kent, Lambton, Middlesex and Elgin Counties.
The footprint of the actual landfill is 87 hectares and this excavated to a depth of nine metres with a maximum lift height above the original grade of 42 metres. The site would lend itself to a future expansion, subject to the approval process.
Leachate is pumped from the waste cells into an onsite storage tank. The leachate is then discharged into a municipal sanitary sewer line connected to the Blenheim Pollution Control Plant. (Before May 2002 leachate was trucked to the Chatham Water Pollution Control Plant.) In 2002, the Ridge Landfill sent approximately seven million gallons of leachate offsite for treatment.
A small quantity of wood waste is chipped and recycled onsite and the chips are used to support vehicles hauling to the working face in wet weather. Excavated clay from each cell is used for daily cover.
The heavy equipment units operating on the daily working face include two Caterpillar 836 Landfill Compactors and two Caterpillar D8 Track Type tractors. The daily cover operation involves a Caterpillar 345B mass excavator that loads from a clay stockpile, plus a D400E series and a D350E series Caterpillar articulated dump trucks.
The facility has its own public liaison committee with representatives from the immediate area and the municipal council. They will comment on the development of a post-closure plan, which may include recreational activities like toboggan hills, walking trails, and so on.
The landfill revenues have contributed to the community and surrounding area in a number of ways. More than $800,000 was given to the municipality to construct an area water system. (This was not related to any contamination problem from the landfill. Historical and ongoing groundwater monitoring shows there is no offsite groundwater impact.)
The facility also makes an annual contribution to the municipality for the maintenance of the haul roads. A contribution was also made to the municipality for the upgrading of the municipal sewage treatment plant, which receives a further payment per-litre for leachate treatment.
An annual payment is made to property owners immediately surrounding the landfill site, and a host community fee is paid to the municipality that varies with the annual tonnage landfilled.
A Community Trust Fund receives revenue based on the tonnage landfilled. This fund is administered by a local board and may be used for any purpose deemed to be in the best interest of the community. Recently some of the money was used to purchase a new vehicle for the police department.
The landfill has put in place a property protection plan for certain properties surrounding the site that guarantees owners market value (based on a qualified appraisal) in the event of a sale. The landfill will pay the original property owner the difference between the appraised value and the best o
d, provided that the offer is lower than the appraised value.
Independent Manager Hugh Thomas says one of the reasons the Ridge Landfill is successful is because the owners have spent a lot of time developing good relations with neighbours.
“Also,” says Thomas, “the facility is fortunate to have Mark Glass as manager/engineer. He’s had years of experience in landfilling operations and is one of the most respected people in the industry.
“In the four years that I’ve been active as the independent manager I haven’t received a single complaint from the surrounding area.”
And that might be the Ridge Landfill’s best feature of all.
Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine.