Landfill PCS facility earns state innovation award

Biological treatment system cleans petroleum-contaminated soil

December 13, 2017

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colo. – The Garfield County Landfill has received the 2018 state of Colorado Grand Conceptor Award for an innovative treatment facility that decontaminates soil that has been exposed to petroleum products. The award was recently announced at the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado (ACEC) engineering excellence awards banquet in Denver.

The county’s biological treatment facility for petroleum-contaminated soils (PCS) utilizes biopiles that promote aerobic biodegration of hydrocarbons in the soil. The system also destroys volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through filters before they can escape into the air. The facility went online in June 2016, and receives PCS waste mainly from the oil and gas industry in the form of drilling cuttings and filter cake. Soil affected by diesel fuel spills is also treated in this process at the landfill.

Designed to offer a more environmentally friendly disposal option, the biopile treatment reduces contaminant levels in the soil, allowing it to be used as daily cover at the landfill. Winning the state Grand Conceptor Award gives the county an opportunity to be considered for national recognition by ACEC at its 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards gala in Washington D.C.

Northwest Colorado Consultants, Inc. (NWCC), and AECOM partnered with the county on the PCS facility. Gary Webber, a geologist and senior environmental consultant for NWCC, said it was a joy working on the facility and knowing the process is better for the environment.

“We took two existing technologies based on sound engineering and science, and we combined them to achieve our project goals,” he said. “The trick was to meld the technologies together. The concept utilizes naturally occurring microbes to consume the petroleum. An air stream is drawn through the material and it’s pushed through a biofilter, where additional microbes consume the contaminants in the air stream.”

Garfield County is a pioneer in bringing this technology to fruition, and Webber said he knows of no other public facility offering these services in the country. He added that the benefits of a cleaner decontamination process, decreased risk of liabilities, and the success of the PCS facility has caught the eye of both regulatory agencies and the larger oil and gas companies alike.

“This facility is capturing virtually all the contaminants before they are emitted into the air,” Webber said.

The system is designed to consistently treat materials by rotating contaminated soil
through four different zones, all of which all are in effect simultaneously. Depending on the contamination, it typically takes around two months to treat a batch of soil.

Landfill Manager Deb Fiscus said that the benefits of the PCS facility are especially prevalent to the businesses and residents of Garfield County.

“This has the potential to be a huge local benefit, especially when it comes to the environmental aspect,” she said. “We don’t simply put the contaminated soil back into the ground. We’re treating and cleaning it first. There’s also a benefit to industry because it reduces their liability, and a definite benefit to the landfill, in that we can reuse the soil. It has the potential to be good for everyone.”