Charlotte County, Fla., has used the same location for waste disposal since the mid-'70s. The Zemel Road Landfill has served the county's residents without any major problems, and the county has planned for future growth, ensuring that the site's operations will continue for some time.

The landfill is out of sight from the nearby highway and is located more than a mile from any other structure. The county has been dumping there since 1975, and, in 1993, it undertook a major reconstruction to comply with new landfill regulations. In 1999, the county received its second five-year permit to operate the "new" facility.

James Thomson, director of the Charlotte County Department of Environmental Services credits the landfill's endurance, and its second permit, to efficient operations and planning. Additionally, over the years, the county and the state have implemented procedures to maximize capacity.

The landfill serves approximately 150,000 residents. Annual waste tonnage is 110,000, and the site is expected to provide disposal capacity until 2025, Thomson says.

In 1996, the department began conducting aerial topographic surveys to evaluate the amount of waste in the landfill and to find ways to extend the landfill's life. With the help of the department's consulting engineer, HDR Engineering, Tampa, the department learned that the landfill would be full in 2009. However, by extending the elevation 32 feet, the county also could extend the facility's use to 2025.

In 1998, the county redesigned the landfill to allow for a vertical extension. However, because the county was using more air space at Zemel, officials had to make additional arrangements to comply with federal and state regulations for soil cover. The site requires 272 cubic yards of cover soil each day, culled from several stormwater ponds on site. To avoid depleting the ponds, the department began using retractable tarp covers at the landfill.

The redesign has saved the county more than $20 million. Without expanding the existing site, the county would have had to construct a second landfill cell over 100 acres. "We will have to expand at some point, but the vertical expansion has delayed that, so we can start setting aside funding for a new site," Thomson says. Charlotte County and the state already have acquired land surrounding the Zemel Road site to allow for future growth.

Last year, the Zemel Road Landfill received an Excellence Award from the Solid Waste Association of North America, Silver Spring, Md. The county was honored in the category of landfill management.