Lehigh Valley

Grand Central Landfill gets green light to go "green"

Plans approved to switch garbage trucks from diesel to natural gas

PLAINFIELD TWP., Pa. - The days of noisy, diesel-fume-spewing garbage trucks are apparently numbered, at least at the Grand Central Sanitary Landfill in Plainfield Township.

The landfill, owned by Houston-based Waste Management, got the green light Wednesday night from the township Zoning Hearing Board in a unanimous vote to construct a compressed natural gas pumping station for its fleet of trucks, and a separate one for retail sales open to the public.    

Waste Management officials said the Grand Central Landfill is the latest in a country-wide push to switch its trucks from diesel fuel to natural gas.

The savings are substantial with compressed natural gas selling at about half the price of diesel, which can cost more than $4 per gallon.

The gas will be supplied through a pipeline that UGI will run to the site, free of cost, officials said.

"It's the same gas as in your house," said Brian Bogar, a design manager with ET Environmental of Mystic, Conn.

The pumping station will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will be unattended but under constant surveillance by cameras.

Bogar outlined in detail how the system would operate and pointed out the safety devices that would harmlessly vent the gas if there was a pressure build up or a fire.

The garbage trucks will line up at the same time at night and hook into the system for a slow-fill refill, a process that would take four-to-eight hours.

A single truck that would refill at the public station would take about six or eight minutes, he said.

Everyone pulling into the public pumping station must take "training" in the form of nine pop-up screens that explain basics like don't smoke, turn off the engine and where the stop button is in case of an emergency.

Besides the financial benefits to the landfill, the public should see benefits in the form of less noise from the trucks.

"It's amazing how quiet  these vehicles really are," Bogar said. The gas also burns cleaner and produces less particulates, he said.

Waste Management began adding compressed natural gas trucks to its fleets on the West Coast in the 1990s and the switch has been slowly moving east since, Bogar said.

There are now 50 locations across the country fueling 2,500 vehicles, he said.

Grand Central has 50 trucks in its fleet and it plans to have all of them switched to natural gas by next year, said Jim Pryor, the company's police director.

By lowering its fuel costs, the landfill could gain a competitive edge on its competition and land more contracts, which in turn would bring more money to the township because the township receives revenue from the landfill based on the tonnage going into the landfill.

"This is a positive project," Matthew Goodrich, the lawyer for the landfill said.

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