By Mike Scheck
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 25, 2009 - It doesn't take a sanitation engineer to see that garbage collection and disposal is a major problem throughout Iraq. But the sweet smell of success is starting to permeate from the Kirkuk Solid Waste Management Program — at least in a metaphorical sense — thanks in part to the efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers here.
The waste management initiative has a two-fold goal, according to Nawza Abdulla Karim from the Kirkuk municipal solid waste management department.
"It is important to keep Kirkuk clean and it is vital for the health of the city's residents since a lot of diseases can accompany trash," he said.
Once regarded as one of Iraq's most beautiful cities, Coalition Forces Brigade Combat Team initiated a sustained solid waste management program in 2005 to deal with Kirkuk's massive garbage problem. The team partnered with Kirkuk local and provincial leaders, the coalition's provincial reconstruction team, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division to find an environmentally safe solution to the city's garbage collection and disposal dilemma.
The program centerpiece is an $8.8 million sanitary landfill that meets both the highest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and European Union Landfill Directive standards. This site represents the first environmentally engineered and constructed landfill in Iraq.
The landfill project, funded by the U.S. Commander's Emergency Response Program, was completed by the Irbil-based Zana Group in February 2008. The 48-acre site, located 10 miles south of the city, has an expected lifespan of 10 to 12 years, according to the engineers.
Two solid waste transfer stations are included in the plan; the first opened in December 2007.
Based on the high daily capacity of garbage collected at the station, the program has been nothing short of "phenomenal," said Army Lt. Col. J.B. Chadwick, officer in charge of the USACE Gulf Region Division's Kirkuk office.
Even other entities have pitched in to support the solid waste program.
The Development Group Iraq Trust Fund bought the Kirkuk garbage trucks and the Republic of Korea donated the semi-trailers and loader for the transfer stations. To help Kirkuk catch up with trash pickup after years of neglect, bongo trucks — financed by the U.S. Army and operated by private contractors — also comb the city.
Soon, the collection and processing capacity will double with the opening of the second transfer station north of Kirkuk. USACE engineers have initiated the lessons learned from the first transfer station to make the second site bigger, better and even more efficient, Chadwick said.
The goal of both sites is to provide collection, processing and dumping of more than 600 tons of Kirkuk's garbage every day into the landfill. To help defer the operating costs of the transfer stations and landfill, scales have been installed to allow Kirkuk to charge fees to other municipalities to process their solid waste.
At full capacity, the solid waste sites and landfill will employ more than 700 local workers, adding stable employment and a much-needed boost to the city's local economy. The Kirkuk-based Dalo Company is the general contractor for the transfer station projects.
Army Col. Dan Anninos, commander of the Gulf Region District, recently toured the transfer station and said the project is a major success story in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
"This plant is a step in the right direction to provide the citizens of Kirkuk with an effective means to treat solid waste in a sustainable matter that is good for the environment, while all along improving the underlying quality of life of the thousands of residents that this waste management system will service," Anninos said.
The Gulf Region Division has completed thousands of reconstruction projects in partnership with the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Since 2004, the division has completed 5,257 projects throughout Iraq valued at more than $8.9 billion, and has 361 projects ongoing.
(Mike Scheck works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District public affairs office.)