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Jicarilla Apache Nation

Jicarilla Apache Nation seal

Doing Transfer Station Homework Pays Off

Know your tribe's solid waste needs and goals—this is the Jicarilla Apache Nation's advice to tribal solid waste managers that struggle with waste management decisions. Rather than making hasty, uninformed decisions when Subtitle D of RCRA forced the closure of its dump sites, the tribe took the time to research the best solution for meeting its specific needs and situation.

"Everyone has different goals and needs. Do a feasibility study to know your needs." - —Merlin Tafoya, Sr., Executive Director of Public Works Division

Feasibility Study Helps Set Course
The tribe began by hiring an engineering firm, using money from an Indian Health Service (IHS) solid waste management grant, to prepare a feasibility study that examined the tribe's current and projected rates of waste generation. The feasibility study also assessed the costs and benefits of building a transfer station versus a landfill and included a business plan for the development and operation of a transfer station. Based on this study, the tribe concluded that building a transfer station was the most affordable and effective long-term solution.

Doing the Homework Brings Results. . .
As the first step in selecting a facility design, Merlin Tafoya, the executive director of the Public Works Division, visited several area transfer stations and spoke with facility owners and operators. From these visits and conversations, Mr. Tafoya knew exactly what type of facility he wanted for the Jicarilla. He knew, for example, that the facility should be totally enclosed because of the harsh winters experienced in the area. He also knew he wanted a compactor to maximize outgoing waste loads and reduce hauling costs. (The tribe is charged per trailer, not per ton of waste, so ensuring each container is full helps reduce hauling costs.) Mr. Tafoya presented the totally enclosed, compactor facility design to the Jicarilla Tribal Council, and the council fully supported and approved his recommendations.

Mr. Tafoya recommends that you know "your tribe's situation, your location and region, and your goals." He emphasizes that it is important to size your transfer station to your tribe's anticipated use and needs. By doing the research, visiting other transfer stations, and speaking to owners and operators about their facilities, the tribe was able to build a facility that met its needs exactly and became a model for other tribes and communities in the region. Representatives from several tribes have visited the Jicarilla facility and many more have called to ask questions about its operation. Mr. Tafoya recommends visiting other tribes and municipalities in your area to see what they are doing for waste management and to see how things are working for them. He also advises looking at future funding sources to determine if you will have enough money to operate and maintain your transfer station once it is built. The bottom line for Mr. Tafoya is, "if it works for you, do it." He also recommends getting as much federal funding as possible. "Go out and use other people's money. IHS, BIA, private funding—whatever you can get."

Locating the transfer station was not a difficult process for the Jicarilla Nation. Prior to identifying potential sites, the tribe established a list of essential siting criteria. One of the main criteria was to have paved road access to the site. After examining several sites, the tribe settled upon a 6-acre section of a 20-acre tract previously designated and set aside by the tribal council for a landfill. It is located about 1 mile west of the town area.

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Top Notch Facility Creates Impact
The transfer station opened in April 1997. It is a totally enclosed, 2-story building roughly 50 feet by 75 feet. The transfer station operations take place in a 30-foot by 50-foot section of the building with the remaining area used as office space. Vehicles enter the upper level of the transfer station and dump waste into a hopper situated above a waste compactor. The compactor compresses waste into an enclosed 42-cubic-yard bin located on the lower level of the transfer station building.

The transfer station serves approximately 5,000 people (which includes about 3,000 tribal members from 650 homes). Mr. Tafoya estimates that the station handles 12 to 16 tons of waste per day. The tribe contracts with a private waste hauler to transport waste from the transfer station to a landfill in Farmington, New Mexico, about 80 miles away.

Waste arriving at the transfer station consists primarily of household trash and some yard trimmings collected through the tribe's free, weekly residential waste collection service. Bulky or more hazardous items such as white goods, tires, car batteries, and household hazardous waste are also accepted, but are removed from the waste stream and managed separately. These items are stored on site until enough are accumulated to justify a shipment, and then they are taken away by the tribe's contract hauler. The transfer station does not accept construction and demolition waste from private contractors working on the reservation. Contractors must make their own arrangements with private waste haulers for the removal of these wastes.

The transfer station is normally open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the summer, hours of operation are extended to 6 p.m. The tribe also provides a portable 42-cubic-yard roll-off container outside the facility fence for after-hours use by tribal members and residents. The tribe makes this service available to encourage and facilitate use of the transfer station and to prevent illegal dumping.

Mr. Tafoya believes that the greatest impact of the transfer station has been a cleaner environment on the reservation and changes in people's behavior. Illegal dumping has declined significantly since the station opened. In the first year after its opening, community comments and feedback were overwhelmingly positive. Tribal members found the transfer station cleaner and easier to use than the previous dump sites. They especially appreciated the heated building during the long winter months on the reservation.

For more information, contact Merlin Tafoya, Sr., Executive Director of Public Works Division for Jicarilla Apache Nation at 505 759-3242 ext. 295

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