A waste-to-energy facility in Pennsylvania is undertaking significant site improvement efforts to lay the foundation for enhanced site safety and efficiency as well as establishing the infrastructure needed to manage increased waste capacity in the future.

On average, the United States generates 230 million tonnes of municipal solid waste annually. In the US, there are 2,000 active landfills and 78 waste-to-energy facilities. The York County Solid Waste and Refuse Authority (Authority) began investigating alternative waste disposal options in the mid-80’s; ultimately selecting waste-to-energy technology – a proven environmentally sound and economically viable method of waste management.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), using waste-to-energy facilities reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from waste management activities.

In the mid-1980’s, construction of the Authority’s waste-to-energy facility began, and in 1989, the RRC began processing municipal solid waste. Today, the RRC serves the waste management needs of more than 443,000 residents and also processes compatible residual (industrial) waste. The RCC converts waste into a smaller volume of ash and produces clean, renewable energy. Since the facility began its operations, more than 11 million tonnes of municipal solid waste have been converted into five million megawatt hours (MWh) of energy.

To continue to ensure the facility maintains high performance and safety standards, as well as reliable operations for decades to come, the Authority and Covanta York Renewable Energy Systems (Covanta), operator of the RCC, announced the extension of their long-term operation and maintenance agreement in 2015 through to 2035.

Horst Excavating was given the task of earthwork and site preparation on the four-phase project. This includes overall sitework, site demolition, erosion and sedimentation, underground utility work and stone and asphalt paving. In total, they will move more than 300,000 yd3 of material.

“Construction on the three year site improvement project began in 2015 and we’re now in the third phase,” says Brian Kane, vice president of Horst Excavating. “Next, we will construct the expanded refuse pit, including retaining walls and crane bay extension.”

Working to excavate the material is a pair of Volvo excavators. Horst is mining 30,000 yd3 of rock from the pit, excavating nearly five stories deep.

“Right now we are blasting and hammering through a lot of deep, hard limestone,” says Russ Outman, site superintendent for Horst Excavating. “It puts a strain on the equipment, which is running at 10 hours a day non-stop.”

Horst Excavating looked to local Volvo dealer, Highway Equipment & Supply. After a trip to the US equipment exhibition CONEXPO in 2014, the company purchased its first Volvo excavators, an EC340D followed by an EC350E. When it was time to replace additional fleet units, Horst called on Highway Equipment & Supply to purchase an EC460C for the expansion project.

The EC350E excavator is equipped with a high tensile reinforced boom. A Volvo 3.5 yd3 bucket is fitted to the EC350E, providing consistent power and high breakout force to load the blasted rock. The EC460 is also at work on the site, powering a Genesis GH18NPK 8000 lb-ft hammer to chisel large chunks of limestone that frame the pit.

“Our Volvo excavators have the right power-to-weight ratio to cover our typical working range,” says Kane.

Volvo CE itself is enjoying the benefits of this facility, with the company’s North American site – in nearby Shippensburg – using it to handle its waste.

“Since 2016, we’ve diverted nearly all (90%) of Volvo CE’s Shippensburg waste from landfills, up from 49% in 2014,” says Scott Robertson, environmental consultant with Waste Management Services. “This has helped Volvo CE achieve a 40% reduction in waste handling costs. In 2017, we finally met our goal of ‘zero landfill’ through an increased focus on recycling and utilizing the Authority for all of our otherwise non-recyclable wastes.”