Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:53
Ken Rieman doesn't mind talking trash. For more than two decades, his career revolved around it.
|Ken Rieman, who served 22 years as county solid waste director, stands at landfill (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Rieman, of Bowling Green, retired recently after serving as director of the Wood County Solid Waste District - holding the position since it was created 22 years ago. He leaves behind a landfill able to meet the county's needs for years to come, wind turbines that generate power, and recycling operations set up throughout the county.
Recycling was a good fit for Rieman, who volunteered at the recycling center in Bowling Green prior to taking the solid waste job.
"Recycling has been expanded throughout the county," he said. "If somebody wants to recycle, you can."
By sharing grant funding with communities, recycling operations are now offered through 10 curbside programs and 17 satellite drop-off locations.
"It's been quietly sustained," Rieman said of the programs that have succeeded because they are affordable and sustainable. The grants, giving each community a per capita amount annually of $1 per resident, were a way of "recycling the money" to keep trash out of landfills.
Rieman described his philosophy as a "practical recycler."
"It has to pay its way in the market," he said. "If it costs too much to do it, then you're just going out of business."
Also during his tenure, Rieman saw a shift in landfill tonnage. The Wood County Landfill has seen a decline in trash due to industries using less packaging, more emphasis on recycling, and the loss of local trash to cheaper private dumps outside the county.
When Rieman started as solid waste director, the county had about 30 old dumps. He recalled a time in the 1960s when people just threw trash "into the back 40" without thinking about the long-term effects.
"You couldn't fathom it today," he said.
After taking over as director, Rieman worked with Brad Espen of the Wood County Health Department to get rid of the old dump sites.
In addition to getting rid of environmentally hazardous sites, the move also shifted more trash to the county landfill. So Rieman set a goal of making the landfill "environmentally responsible."
The facility not only stockpiles trash, but it offers places for local residents to take scrap metal, tires for recycling, yard waste for composting, brush to be made into mulch, and concrete to be hammermilled into stone for roads.
"If you can give them a place where they can afford to take it," most people will handle trash responsibly, Rieman said.
Rieman also partnered with Daryl Stockburger, of Bowling Green utilities, to provide a site for the four wind turbines next to the landfill - the first such site in Ohio.
The landfill, Rieman said, has helped the county become a more environmentally friendly place.
"That landfill has done exactly what it was supposed to do," he said, noting that it's odd for a landfill to be credited with helping the environment.
"When you run a landfill, you don't get a lot of positive publicity," he said. "But without it, I don't think there would be wind turbine farms in Ohio."
During his term, a sewer line was extended to the 300-acre landfill to help transport the leachate to Bowling Green wastewater treatment plant.
Rieman's biggest disappointment as director was not being able to complete the landfill methane gas project, which could have generated energy from the landfill gas. Despite his efforts, an economic method could not be found to capture the methane and turn it into energy.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:58