Automating landfill field data improves site management.
By Aaron Weier and Dave Sedlacko
Managing data collected by field staff at landfills has always been a huge challenge. In the past, individual field technicians collected the data on paper and then submitted it to project managers, who had to aggregate and consolidate data from multiple technicians for multiple projects. Turnaround time for reviewing all the data collected was typically much slower than desirable. In addition, it was not always possible to manage data onsite.
A better way was sought to automate field data to get key information to technicians in the field and quickly provide data collected to the project stakeholders who are driving decision-making. What evolved from the desire for a more efficient
process is new data collection systems that provide landfill decision-makers access to information in reports and dashboards in a matter of minutes instead of days.
Data Management Behind the Curtain
New landfill data collection tools include three business applications:
1. Mobile data collection—Streamlined, mobile-friendly collection of field data and geotagged digital imagery
2. Site asset management—Web-based portal for managing multiples sites, all classes of site assets, in-situ data collection, users, security and configuration
3. Reporting and analytics—Seamless database integration of all data, automated report generation, analytics, maps, charts and dashboards
The overall system should include quality checks at every step to ensure the highest level of data integrity and confidence in data-driven decisions. If a record does not meet the quality check, the system sends it down a different path for corrective action. A record does not make it into the database until it meets all the quality checks.
Flexible System Can Be Used for Various Landfill Tasks
New data collection systems are extremely flexible and can be used for various landfill tasks. In the following sections, we review three important landfill use cases and provide information on useful tools for each:
• High fluid levels—Fluid management analytics and heat maps
• Cover integrity inspections—Images, reports and maps
• Maintenance and repairs—Tracking, assignments and closure of task
High Fluid Levels
Symptoms of high fluid levels include poor gas flow, slope stability issues and higher temperatures. Landfills faced with these issues often want to collect and analyze fluid levels more frequently, identify key targets for fluid impact based on the data collected and then implement a pump management program.
Figure 1 shows a fluid level profile graph, which displays data from calculated columns of the spreadsheet in profile view. It provides an as-built profile for a baseline—data for the profiles comes from the database.
Map options are shown in Figure 2. On the left, the percentage blocked is shown for discrete points, using stoplight colors to indicate status. The “P” symbol identifies whether the location has a pump installed. The map on the right illustrates an interpolated surface using the metric of fluid elevation. Darker colors signify there is more fluid. Interpolation, based on the collected data, provides a better overall view of fluids throughout the entire landfill. The interpolation shows areas of potential concern and identifies areas that may require further field verification.
Cover Integrity Inspections
The system should be able to easily handle any type of inspection conducted. In this use case, field techs are constantly inspecting the landscape as they are traversing the landfill. If they find an issue with the landfill cover that needs repairs, they can capture a geotagged image, enter a description and submit the information. Every record will automatically provide the “who,” “what,” “when” and “where.”
A cover integrity (CI) report is shown in Figure 3, page 51, including the CI record, description, image, location and technician. The form can be set to capture one image per record or multiple images per record. Images are stored in a cloud repository and are tagged to the record. No more downloading images and attempting to match them up with handwritten notes. Since the images are saved in a cloud repository, they can also be viewed from a map viewer.
Maintenance and Repairs
These types of systems offer an integrated approach to closing the loop on maintenance and repair items. It serves as a built-in work order system. Using the integrated assignment capability in the mobile application, repair items can be logged (marked as incomplete by default) and assigned to technicians to be fixed. The system tracks the state of each item, and reports can be generated based on status.
Figure 4 shows an example of a maintenance and repair tracking repair form. In the image, the “Completed” field has been toggled to “No,” indicating that the repair is not complete and will need follow up action.
The “Assignment” section (Figure 5) allows a repair item to be assigned to a technician. When the assigned technician completes the repair, the “Completed” toggle is changed to “Yes” and the “Correction” element is updated to show the action taken to complete the repair. The technician submits the completed repair to the system. Reports can be generated showing which repairs are left outstanding and which repairs have been completed.
These systems also feature a web portal that provides access to all data for each project and all the assets (for example, gas wells and pumps). The application includes monitoring management for each asset in the system,
including NSPS compliance parameters, as-built information and reporting requirements. Adding assets to the system is form-driven and intuitive. Dependencies exist for as-builts and NSPS compliance.
Report templates are created and reused for every site. More than a dozen report types are available. Figure 6, shows examples of monthly report options. Reports can be exported to PDF or spreadsheet format.
Highly Adaptable System
Landfill site data collection systems can be highly adaptable to specific data requirements. Each system component (forms, database, reports, dashboards, etc.) can be configured in various ways to meet the needs of any site. The data collection platform and workflow automation are cloud-based, but can also be configured on premise.
Data integrity is at the forefront of the collection process, using logic on forms to control input and catch basic errors. Data integrity also extends to knowing who collected the information, when it was collected, and where it was collected.
Data is transformed behind the scenes from raw data to actionable information. Landfill site data collection systems offer a major improvement over what has traditionally been a time-consuming and tedious data transcription process. What was formerly hand-written field data is now submitted via mobile tools for instant data processing, transformation and analysis. End users now have access to that information in reports and dashboards in a matter of minutes instead of days. | WA
Aaron Weier, IT Manager, Tetra Tech, Inc., has 24 years of experience in developing, delivering, and supporting data driven applications. His work includes data development and management, geospatial data development and management, application development, GIS application development and support for desktop and web deliverables, 3D mapping, spatial analysis and training. He can be reached at [email protected].
David Sedlacko, Database Manager, Tetra Tech, Inc., has 11 years of experience in the landfill gas industry. He has led the development and management of Tetra Tech’s mobile data collection platform, as well as internal data management system, and works closely with project staff to align the use of the mobile data collection platform to meet project needs and provide data quality, process efficiency and customer satisfaction. He can be reached at [email protected].
Tetra Tech Delta technology and tools are used for mobile field data collection, real-time processing of large datasets, custom interactive dashboards and cloud-based solutions. The platform represents more than 50 years of research and industry- leading, technology-driven applications that serve as the foundation for the solutions Tetra Tech is providing clients today. The new system was developed by a team of experienced waste management
experts, analysts and data scientists who leveraged the Tetra Tech Delta suite of proprietary technologies and analytical tools. For more information, visit www.tetratech.com/en/delta.