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Big Apple Goes Green,With the Help of a Few Wheel Loaders

Fri January 28, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Under the vigilant gaze of Lady Liberty, what was once the largest landfill in the world has been transformed into a closed facility to treat garbage. The Fresh Kills Landfill along the Fresh Kills estuary in the New York City borough of Staten Island once comprised 2,200 acres and was the city’s principal landfill during the latter half of the 20th century. Originally opened in 1948, the 4.6-sq.-mi. site welcomed 24 barges laden with up to 650 tons of garbage on a daily basis.

Due to local pressure and with the support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the landfill was closed in March 2001. However, it was temporarily reopened and transformed into a crime lab after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in order to receive and process approximately one-third of the debris from Ground Zero.

By 2007, plans were back on track and the Staten Island Transfer Station became the first of several proposed facilities owned and overseen by the city to go into full-scale operation. Included in Mayor Bloomberg’s visionary 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan, the truck-to-container-to-rail transfer station was authorized as part of a comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan developed for the New York City Department.

Expected to process an average of 900 tons of residential and municipal waste generated on Staten Island, the transfer station compacts inside a 79,000-sq.-ft. facility, moving it into sealed 12 by 20-ft. intermodal shipping containers that are loaded onto flatbed rail cars and hauled to a Republic/Allied Waste landfill in Lee County, South Carolina. By exporting garbage and recycling out of the city, the state-of-the-art transfer station eliminates a significant amount of solid waste-generated truck traffic.

Rebuilding Plans

Because the landfill was scheduled to close in 2001, the facility had been downsizing. Due to the changes wrought by the 9/11 attack, the Department of Sanitation ramped up again and purchased new equipment to handle the load, including three Caterpillar 966G wheel loaders. “We purchased them new in 2002 with the idea of using them for the new transfer station,” recalls John Pappalardo, chief of mechanics. “But because it took three to four years to get the operation going, we used them around the landfill.”

By the time the transfer station was ready to open, the machines had quite a few hours on them and Pappalardo knew they would soon require service. Once the transfer station was operational, the wheel loaders would be kept busy moving garbage onto a conveyor that would feed two compactors, which would be operating during two shifts a day. Working in an unheated facility, sometimes moving heavy, wet garbage, the wheel loaders would be put to the test. Looking three to five years down the road, he realized it would not be cost effective to maintain them beyond a certain point but, due to budgetary constraints, there wouldn’t be funds available for new purchases.

John Schloeder, Foley Inc. customer support representative, came up with a solution. Having gained an understanding of his customer’s situation and budgetary limits, Schloeder proposed a certified rebuild for each machine. “Each borough will eventually have its own transfer station and they were opening a new one on Staten Island, so John wanted his machines new and fresh and ready to go. I knew he wanted his equipment to be trouble-free and under warranty.”

He also knew Pappalardo could get a rebuild for 60 to 65 percent of the cost of new equipment. Still, it took a little convincing to sell the idea. “I drove him to see another Staten Island customer who had recently done a certified power train rebuild on a 966. He looked it over; it was a home run.”

“I talked to John about the work,” Pappalardo recalls. “He mentioned rebuilds and that started the ball rolling.” He evaluated the criteria for cost effectiveness of repair vs. replacement, realizing that when the machines were older, there wouldn’t be enough money in the budget, “so we rehabbed a little early to save money.”

Budgets are approved by the NYC city council, which oversees the New York City Department of Sanitation. City-wide, the Department of Sanitation handles 16,000 tons of residential and institutional refuse and recyclables a day, using 2,230 collection trucks that are part of a fleet of approximately 6,000 pieces of equipment.

Because it’s a civil entity, the Department of Sanitation lets all contracts out to bid. “We worked with Foley years ago on a contract,” Pappalardo remembers. “They won the bid for a three-year contract for repair of equipment in July 2008.”

After weighing the cost savings to rebuild and seeing that there was money available in the repair contract, Pappalardo opted to send the three 966G wheel loaders for a certified rebuild. “The machines had hours on them, so it was more cost-effective for Foley to do the rehab now.”

The Nuts and Bolts of Timing

Although it may have seemed like Pappalardo was going for the rebuild a little early, Paul Kirchberger, Foley Inc. shop foreman, believes it was the right decision. “Those machines worked in landfills for five years, in a rough environment. There were bound to be some concerns like deteriorated wiring harnesses and other issues.”

New Cat equipment is built with a second life in mind. Under Caterpillar’s certified rebuild program, each machine is completely dismantled and every component is restored to like-new condition or replaced. In all, approximately 7,000 parts are repaired, replaced or reconditioned. Additionally, the machine is repainted, with new graphics applied.

Once completed, the rebuild can give another service life to the machine. states Kirchberger. “A Cat Certified rebuild machine comes with six months complete machine warranty and then after the six months runs out a three year/ 5000 hour. power-train warranty comes into play. In addition, Foley throws in one year of free travel and mileage for any needed repairs. In some cases, it is even comparable to a new machine warranty.”

Pappalardo insists the main purpose of doing the certified rebuilds was to extend the life of the machines, calling the warranty a bonus. So far there have only been a few minor issues and they have not had to use it — but it is nice to know that it is there if he needs it.

Affordably Environmental

Opting for the certified rebuild provided the city with “substantial savings versus replacement,” Schloeder believes. Kirchberger agrees: “You can save a couple hundred thousand dollars by doing a rebuild.” You can rebuild your machine for a portion of buying a new machine’s cost.

“We’re starting to do a lot of rebuilds,” Schloeder continues, “because it’s so economically smart — and you get a better machine and better warranty than new. That’s the advantage of a rebuild: you get all updates and improvements that have been issued.”

Cost effectiveness was obviously a key metric in the decision to do the certified rebuilds, but there are ancillary benefits as well. The transfer station is an environmentally friendly facility where the heavy machinery is outfitted with diesel particulate filters, solid rubber tires and buckets with rubber edges so they don’t damage the floors inside the building. Extending the life of the three wheel loaders contributes to the “greenness” of operation.

But for Pappalardo, the most important result is that his 966G wheel loaders “came back like new and now I can look forward to another 30,000 hours.”

This story was republished with permission from Paydirt magazine Summer 2010 issue.

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