Friday, September 27, 2013

Dworshak Media Project: Making Dworshak "Greener"

At Dworshak Fisheries Complex  We Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!
I was walking around the facility the other day and thinking about how far Dworshak National Fisheries Complex has come in 6 years with regard to improving our environmental footprint.  In 2007 we kicked our Environmental Management Systems program into high gear.  Prior to that time we had been recycling toner cartridges from our printers, aluminum, and paper.  We had even started recycling our plastic soda and water bottles.  It was a good start!
Recently, however, we’ve had the opportunity to kick our efforts to a new level.  Probably the biggest recycling effort this facility has ever experienced occurred a few weeks ago.  Did you notice the big black pile of plastic “stuff” as you drove past us?  It was clearly visible from Riverside/Hwy 12 and several attentive people asked about it. Well, here’s the story!
A plastic Koch ring used for water treatment, USFWS
The big black “stuff” was actually plastic media called Koch rings (pronounced Coke). This media was used in reconditioning the water we used to raise fish. When the facility was constructed in 1969, it operated on a water reuse system.  In recent years the staff at Dworshak has been working with the Army Corps of Engineers to update the water treatment system.  Now the media is no longer needed.  It took 6 years before we were able to find a way to remove it AND recycle the plastic. Let me tell you it was no easy feat!
Roto-Rooter used a huge vacuum truck to the suck the media out of the filter beds. The hoses they used, and the men working on the project took a beating, but they accomplished the task in little over one month!
Roto-Rooter trucking media from filter beds, USFWS
Lewis Clark Recyclers, Inc. (LCRI) set up a cardboard bunker area for Roto-Rooter to dump the media in. When the bunker area was full, they brought in a roll-off truck with two containers to transport approximately 60 to 80 yards - think football field - of material each trip.  All the material was loaded into the container using a front-end loader.  Then the media was taken to Lewiston.  Another containment bunker was constructed around a large baler.  The media was then dumped out of the transport container into the baler.
Media staging and loading at Dworshak Fish Hatchery, USFWS
Koch rings bailed and ready to go! LCRI
By this time the material had been handled at least twice and it was becoming brittle, so once it was on the conveyor it was in smaller pieces which made baling difficult.  A typical bale must have a minimum of 5 wires holding it together, this product had between 10 and 15 bands holding it together.
After the first load shipped and was received by Denton Plastics in Portland, Oregon. The processor asked for the bales to be shrink wrapped so they could unload it from the truck more efficiently. It must have been a messy job without the shrink wrap!! 

LCRI shipped 6 loads of media to Portland, that’s little more than 200 bales and a total weight of approximately 200,000 pounds!

A load of bailed and wrapped Koch rings, LCRI

Workers at Denton Plastics ground up the material.
Ground up Koch rings, Denton Plastics
Using an extrusion process, it was mixed with a Polypropylene material and formed into little plastic pellets.
Pellets produces by Denton Plastics
The little pellets will now be sold and made into new products, such as flower pots.
I think it’s a pretty cool story.  It amazes me how hard work, creativity, and technology can turn a huge pile of one hatchery’s   “trash” into a gardener’s treasure!

By Shanna Saldecke (LCRI), Eric Fischer (Denton Plastics), Jill Olson (FWS), and Angela Feldmann (FWS)

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