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Guess What? Dirt is not Cheap
(Laidlaw Waste Systems, Inc.)

Over the last two years, Chenault Systems has been involved in developing "soil tracking" systems for Laidlaw Waste Systems, Inc. at their Richland Hills, Texas location. The right kind of information can be a valuable thing; especially if it points out that less soil was needed in land fill operations, saving millions of dollars over a year and a half. Good things happen to organizations and directors who make the effort to look at detailed information in more ways than one.

David Hildreth, Director of Landfill Operations for Laidlaw, understood that soil tracking is a practice that could mean large savings. The key was to identify if a site is using up too much space for soil cover. Air space, normally used for waste, could be consumed by excess dirt. Minimizing the amount of soil (dirt) used leaves more space available for solid waste placement, thus increasing cash flow over the site's life. Also, minimizing the amount of dirt used adds economic life to the site.

The major capital investment in the site is made up of purchase price, cell development, and other capital improvements. These capital items are depleted over the remaining life of the site. Whether a site's life is measured by years or cubic yards of capacity, it is still increased by minimizing the quantity of soil used, thus increasing the "payspace."

Environmental laws require a maintenance fund be created for "closure" and "post closure" of a site. The amount for this fund is an estimate of what these aspects will cost and are based on the capacity of the site. If the total quantity of waste coming in can be increased over the site's life and it fills the same volume of total space, the rate of funds accrual is less.

Millions of dollars worth of work that is planned in the future is delayed to a later date because the payspace lasts longer (because volume used by soil is reduced). This also allows the equipment that hauls the dirt to work less because alternative methods of daily cover are used. When equipment works less, costs are reduced for fuel, repair and labor.

Due to the foresight of Laidlaw management, with the aid of an Excel® database (currently proposed to be converted to FoxPro®) developed by Chenault Systems, dirt usage was reduced by 42% over 18 months. This amounts to 20 million cubic yards of air space saved; and at $6 per cubic yard, this has saved the operation $120 million. A broad rule of 20% excess dirt was reduced to 15%. Machine usage decreased by 21%. The volume of revenue producing waste in the land sites increased by 11%. Laidlaw was able to reduce the earth moving fleet size by 34 pieces in just one year. This also enabled Laidlaw to lengthen the depreciable age of equipment and push back the purchase of new equipment, which impacts the time value of money. All this occurred because of improvements based on data collected and reported by a desktop database application for soil tracking.

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