It wasn’t the cheapest option, but it was the best option. Citing a proven track record, that was the call made by the Barton County Commission Monday when it green-lighted contracting with SCS Aquiterra for engineering services at the Barton County Landfill through 2016.
The Kansas City firm with offices around the globe will conduct annual reporting and survey work at the facility, said landfill Manager Mark Witt. It will also offer on-call services on a 20-hour-per-year basis.
The cost of the SCS (short for Sterns, Conrad and Schmidt) Aquiterra agreement is $109,980. However, its bid was in the middle of the pack of the three bids submitted by the April 11 deadline.
The low bid was Blackstone Environmental, of Kansas City, for $97,559, and the high bid was from Burns and McDonald, also of the Kansas City area, for $124,195.
But, there is more to a proposal than the cost, said Commissioner Jennifer Schartz, who added she usually backs the low bid. “The low bid is not always prudent.”
First, Witt explained that Blackstone would have to subcontract some of the work to another firm. And, there may be other charges crop up over the course of the contract that could increase the expense.
Second, Witt said Barton County has worked with Aquiterra on projects in the past. “We have a lot of experience with them.”
“There is a lot to be said for relationships,” Schartz said. “You get what you pay for.”
“You have a lot of hoops to jump through” when it comes to dealing with changing regulations, Commissioner Don Davis said. So, “it’s better to stick with experience.”
What does the work entail?
According to Witt, the work being done by SCS Aquiterra is mandated by state and federal regulators, and the testing can get pretty technical. The firm will handle:
• Annual groundwater/leachate monitoring and reporting. Per Kansas Department of Health and Environment regulations, Barton County is required to test groundwater for possible contamination around the landfill. It has 15 groundwater monitoring wells located approximately 500 feet from the edge of waste disposal sites and the wells are tested twice yearly, April and October. The samples are sent to a certified laboratory and tested for volatile organic compounds. Every five years, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons, organophosphorus pesticides, and chlorinated herbicides are analyzed.
Also, per KDHE regulations, the landfill is required to test leachate (rainwater that percolates through waste or fluid that forms from waste decomposition). Leachate is tested in each April.
All of the results are compiled by the engineering firm and submitted to KDHE Bureau of Waste Management for review.
• Annual closure/post closure cost estimates. The closure/post closure cost estimates are required to address costs for a third party to perform closure and post closure care items required if the Barton County Landfill has to close immediately. Currently, Barton County must have financial assurance of $5,603,975 to provide for safe closure and perpetual maintenance costs of the facility.
• Annual volume calculations and surveys of active landfill areas. Such factors as area used, areas left for future expansion and waste density. These are beneficial when planning future development, and evaluating operations and efficiency.
• Annual greenhouse gas reporting. According to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the landfill must report greenhouse gas emissions annually. These consist mostly of carbon dioxide and methane.
As solid waste decomposes, these gases are produced and vent naturally into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas absorbs infrared radiation creating the “greenhouse effect.” Barton County Landfill provides annual municipal solid waste tonnage and annual propane usage to the engineering consultant for these calculations.