Mud makes SWD bundle

LISBON – The Solid Waste District that serves Columbiana, Carroll and Harrison counties is one of the indirect beneficiaries of the drilling boom underway in eastern Ohio.

SWD Director Eric Matthews told Columbiana County commissioners that 77 percent of the solid waste disposed of at designated landfills within the district is drilling mud, a byproduct of the drilling process.

The SWD’s main source of income is the per ton disposal fee charged landfills that accept garbage from waste haulers operating in the three counties. Drilling mud – fracking fluid mixed with soil and rock fragments dredged up by the drilling process – is considered a solid waste under Ohio law and can be disposed of as such.

Since Carroll County is first in Ohio in terms of oil and gas development, it should come as no surprise there is a lot of drilling mud being generated locally in need of disposal. As a result, SWD revenue reached a record $1.69 million last year, up more than $1 million from just two years before.

Matthews said the majority of drilling activity is shifting south and west of Carroll County. “We know the drilling money isn’t going to be here forever,” he said.

Mindful of that, the SWD is being careful how to spend its windfall by taking on one-time projects instead of something that may involve ongoing expenses. Matthews said an example of this would be the decision to assist Carroll County in sealing its long-closed county landfill in compliance with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The closure cost is an estimated $890,000, with the SWD agreeing to contribute $520,000, with Carroll County commissioners and the village of Carrollton splitting the rest. Carroll County’s share will come from the $1.6 million it received from leasing the landfill property to a drilling company.

Matthews also updated commissioners on the SWD’s recycling program, which consists of roll-off dumpster-like containers at 74 locations in the three counties, including 42 locations in Columbiana County where the public can dispose of recyclable materials.

Approximately 8.4 million pounds of recyclable materials were collected at these sites last year, a 6.3 percent increase over 2012. Matthews said they on track to exceed 9 million pounds in 2014.

He said believes switching to larger, upright containers with side doors, and the decision to allow all recyclable waste to be comingled when disposed of, has made it more user friendly for the public. Not only that, but the larger containers save money because they do not have to be emptied as frequently.

Matthews said they still have problem with some people using these drop-off sites as a landfill by dumping non-recyclable items, such as furniture, mattresses, TVs and foam.

“As always, we still have some illegal dumping issues at sites,” he said.

“It probably has dropped off since we pulled the sites from East Liverpool,” Commissioner Jim Hoppel suggested. He was referring to the SWD’s decision to remove its dumpsters from East Liverpool because of repeated problems with people disposing of trash at the site.

“Some of it’s cultural and some of it’s education,” Matthews said of the problem.

The money from disposal of the drilling mud offsets the cost of the recycling program, which has always been a losing proposition. The contract with Kimble Companies to operate the dumpster program is for $300,000, with the SWD receiving some reimbursement.

“It’s costing us $200,000 a year,” Matthews said of the recycling program, “but it’s worth it” because more than 8 million pounds of waste is being recycled instead of going into a landfill.

He said the extra funding enabled them to implement a leaf collection program in Salem last year using donated 45,000 paper leaf bags, with the leaves used for compost. The program is being increased to $25,000 this year and expanded to the city of Columbiana and, perhaps, Perry Township, with the Home Depot in Salem providing the bags.

“This is a huge savings” to municipalities, Matthews said of the program.