Transfer Stations

Developing Community-Specific Criteria

A category of criteria to consider when building a transfer station are impacts that the facility will have on the surrounding community. These criteria are typically less technical in nature and incorporate local, social, and cultural factors. Examples of these criteria include:

  • Environmental Justice considerations (e.g., clustering, cumulative impacts)

  • Impact on air quality

  • Impact on the local infrastructure

  • Adjacent land uses, including other environmental stressors that might already exist

  • Proximity to schools, churches, recreation sites, and residences

  • Prevailing winds

  • Number of residences impacted

  • Presence of natural buffers

  • Impacts on existing businesses

  • Expansion capability

  • Buffer zones and screening measures

  • Traffic compatibility

  • Impact on historic or cultural features

  • Impact on neighborhood character

To maintain objectivity in the facility siting process, the community-specific criteria should be prioritized before potential sites are known. After potential sites are identified, the committee will apply these criteria to evaluate each potential site’s suitability as a waste transfer station. These issues also factor into permitting decisions concerning private facilities and should not be ignored by the permitting agency or transfer station developer.

Applying the Committee’s Criteria

After all three categories of siting criteria are agreed upon, it is time for the committee to apply the criteria and narrow down all possible sites. Keep in mind, however, that despite the best efforts, every site has some shortcomings that will need to be addressed. First, the exclusionary criteria can be plotted on maps, which helps the committee visualize where the facility cannot be sited due to local, state, and federal regulations. Once unsuitable areas are eliminated, the committee’s technical criteria and community-specific criteria are applied to all remaining options. Information for each potential site should be developed so the committee can rank the sites. Based on the committee’s ranking, the top two to four sites should undergo more rigorous analysis to determine technical feasibility and compliance with the environmental and community objectives.

Host Community Agreements

Siting any type of solid waste management facility has often been met with strong community opposition. Whether the facility is publicly or privately owned, many residents may not be confident that the siting, permitting, and oversight process will be sufficiently rigorous to address their concerns and protect them from future impacts. When this type of opposition arises, it is often advantageous for the developer to enter into a separate agreement with the surrounding community, laying out all issues of concern and the developer’s action plan in response. These “host community agreements” are most frequently used when private companies are developing a facility, but public agencies might also find them useful in satisfying community concerns. These agreements typically specify design requirements, operating restrictions, oversight provisions, and other services and benefits that the immediate community will receive. Provisions might include the following:

  • Steps to reduce negative environmental impacts in the immediate area, such as committing to the use of low emission or alternative fueled vehicles, or retrofitting vehicles with particulate filters

  • Limitations on waste generation sources

  • Roadside cleanup of litter on access routes

  • Restrictions on facility operating hours

  • Restrictions on vehicle traffic routes

  • Financial support for regulatory agencies to assist with facility oversight

  • Independent third-party inspection of facilities, or the use of video monitoring

  • Assistance with recycling and waste diversion objectives

  • A fee paid to the local government for every ton of waste received at the facility

  • Free or reduced-cost use of the facility for the community’s residents and businesses

  • Guaranteed preference to the community’s residents for employment

  • Funding for road or utility improvements

  • Provisions for an environmental education center

  • Financial support for other community-based activities

These agreements can also require that community representatives have access to the facility during operating hours to monitor performance. Safety concerns must be addressed if this provision is included. Community representatives usually welcome an ongoing communication process between facility operators and an established citizen’s committee to encourage proactive response to evolving issues. The provisions or amenities in a host community agreement generally are in addition to what state and local standards or regulations require, and thus should not be thought of as substitutes for adequate facility design and operation. The same is true for state, tribal or local government compliance enforcement. The government agency responsible for transfer station compliance also should make a commitment to the community concerning its role in actively and effectively enforcing all requirements.