Weather Woes at the Landfill

posted 1/20/2016

Many factors affect the operation of the landfill, but few have more impact than the weather. Just like the weather has a tremendous effect on our daily lives, it has some of the very same influences on Metro Park East Landfill. It impacts our schedule, what we wear, how we drive, and more importantly, our health and safety. The weather forces us to plan ahead, too. To bring an umbrella, to remember hat and gloves, to check road conditions, etc. It works just the same for a landfill.

Wet Conditions

Rain and muddy conditions probably impact the landfill most often and the biggest problem comes with the loss of traction for garbage trucks and semi-trucks off-loading the garbage at the daily disposal area – also called the “working face.” In dry conditions, trucks take their loads of garbage directly to the working face. However, it takes no more than a 1/4 inch of rain for the whole operation to be forced to move to what’s called the “wet weather pad.” This is a temporary location that is stable, flat, and made of a rock base. The garbage is dumped directly on the wet weather pad, eliminating trucks getting stuck on inclines. The garbage is then pushed to the working face by bulldozers.

Winter Weather Conditions

Actually, the perfect working condition at any landfill is when the ground is frozen and the temperatures are also below freezing. The working surface is solid and very few problems arise. It’s when snow and, even worse, ice, are part of the forecast that things get dicey. Ice storms are very dangerous at the landfill. Even the heavy equipment with tracks instead of wheels slip and slide, and the trucks scoot all over, creating the same “traffic” hazards we all face on ice.

Heavy snowfall creates other issues – the roads can become impassible or even difficult to find altogether. Contrary to what some might think, cleared snow is not put in the landfill. When snow is in the forecast, Metro Waste Employees are on call for snow removal and go in as early as 1 a.m. to remove snow on roads and walkways, taking it to a location away from the “fill.” Winter weather also affects the type of cover put on the landfill every night. The large tarps, normally used, will freeze to the ground, making it difficult, or impossible to remove them in the morning without damaging them. Soil can also be used as a nightly cover, but in the midst of a snow or ice storm, it is challenging to work with as well. So, a special and expensive spray foam is used instead during these winter weather events.

Sunshine, yes sunshine, also presents a challenge in the winter at a landfill. When the sun’s rays warm the top layer of unpaved roadway in combination with hundreds of very heavy trucks coming and going, you get a soft, wet and slippery driving surface regardless of the temperature. Cue the wet weather pad!

High Winds

Wind poses the obvious challenge of blowing litter. Metro Park East Landfill has dozens of portable, high fences that can deter items such as plastic bags from escaping the facility. We also have litter vacuums loaded on pickup trucks that clean up anything that does blow away. In the case of tornadic activity, a safety plan is in place just like any other facility for employees to take shelter. The cleanup after, however, can be monumental with trash strewn for a long way in the storm’s path.

Weather does affect the operations of the landfill, but most of the time, it is business as unusual, with a few modifications. In fact, for more than twenty years, Metro Park East has only been closed once due to weather and that was on Thursday, December 20, 2012, when more than a foot of snow fell and high winds produced blizzard conditions for several days.    

For more information about safe, smart disposal and recycling options, visit or call 515.244.0021.