BAY MINETTE, Alabama – A local waste disposal official is hoping that the state will clear the way to sell spill-contaminated beach sand to an asphalt company.
Magnolia Landfill had taken in some 800 tons of oily sand through Thursday, according to Baldwin County Solid Waste Director Jim Ransom.
“There is very little coming in now,” Ransom said, “but there are still a lot of people at the beach on cleanup crews for tarballs and wash-up. We are down to two or three loads a day, and on the weekends we get none.”
Two other landfills in the area also were permitted to accept the sand: Timberlands, operated by Allied Waste Services in Escambia County; and Chastang, operated by Waste Management in Mount Vernon.
Baldwin County charges $40 per ton for “special waste” like the oily sand, compared to $33 a ton for regular household waste. Under those rates, the sand has generated about $32,000 in fees.
Ransom said that some of the sand still goes into disposal cells, but “we are getting better at segregating the bulk sand. Most of it coming in now is bulk sand.”
County workers screen the bulk sand, he said, sifting about 95 percent of it to remove larger clumps of oil and tar.
“We are talking with an asphalt company now about taking it,” Ransom said. “They might take it for filler in their process.”
The company will first need to obtain a waiver from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, he said. BP PLC — which has taken responsibility for the Gulf spill — is working to secure the waiver, he added.
Ransom said the idea of cleaning the sand is all but dropped at this point.
If the asphalt company can acquire the sand, it would pay the county for sifting and for transportation costs, Ransom said.
Ransom said that he expects to get more oily sand this fall, when crews begin an effort to remove layers of oil buried beneath the beach surface.
Scott Hughes, an ADEM spokesman, agreed that loads of sand arriving at all three landfills have tapered off recently. He said he was not aware of the asphalt company negotiations or the requested waiver.
Representatives of Allied Waste and Waste Management could not be reached for comment.