Richland company keeps asphalt out of landfill

It's a stenchy, steamy landscape where the ground resembles the lunar surface and the air tastes of hot oil.

But to the workers at Almond & Son's Asphalt, the 1.5 acres they tend at the Richland Eco Park smells of efficiency and profit.

"I love it. I want to retire in this," Brandon Almond said while on a short break from driving a skid loader around the site. Brandon manages the recycling operation for his dad, Dan Almond.

Almond Asphalt, which has been in business about 19 years, recently opened the recycling operation at the Eco Park, next to the city of Richland's Horn Rapids Landfill. The city established the park to attract businesses that can recycle materials that otherwise would go into the landfill.

"It's a great way to take all the material that people throw out there and bring it here," Brandon Almond said. "It's great for the environment and it's great for us."

Dan Almond bought the two big, red recycling machines a year ago and tried them out at several locations before settling on the Eco Park. Almond Asphalt's recycling operation has been picking up steam there since June.

It's a good place to run the machines for several reasons, Brandon Almond said. Being next to the landfill, there aren't many neighbors to complain about the sounds and smells, he said.

Plenty of both are generated by the operation, which uses the two machines to heat the rock and oil up to temperatures of 250 and 350 degrees. Flames heat the material as it goes through a tumbler, breaking the asphalt apart and into an almost liquid form.

Clouds of smoke drift from the tops of the machines, and the refined material pours out the bottom.

Almond Asphalt employee Zeh Campbell wears a mask to keep the fumes out of his lungs as he monitors gauges and settings. Brandon Almond uses the skid loader to scoop the raw, crushed asphalt from the surrounding field and dump it into the machines' hoppers.

The raw asphalt comes from the surface of old roads, driveways and parking lots that have been broken up during paving projects. After Almond Asphalt has recycled it, it can use it on its own jobs or sell the product to other businesses.

Almond Asphalt used to pay Inland Asphalt Co. of Richland to take its asphalt waste. Inland would recycle it and essentially sell it back to Almond to use for paving.

Almond's bill with Inland last year was about $1 million, Brandon Almond said.

"So if we can save $1 million this year by making our own mix, we'll be all right," he said.

So far most of what Almond Asphalt has recycled is asphalt waste the business generated itself. The city hopes the company will be able to recycle whatever is brought to the landfill.

"We've landfilled a heck of a lot of asphalt over the years," said Kip Eagles, solid waste manager for the city.

Giving the recycling business access to materials that otherwise would be dumped into the landfill benefits the city and the business. It's a reason the city set up the Eco Park, and it's a reason businesses would be interested in operating there, besides a good deal on rent.

"There's an opportunity to take that material, not put it in a landfill, but to send it to some of these other businesses at the same time," Eagles said.

The city has about 50 acres of available space around the landfill for recycling businesses to join the Eco Park. Almond was the first to take advantage, and the city is in talks with a wood recycling business that also is considering moving there, said Gary Ballew, economic development manager for the city.

-- Joe Chapman: 582-1512;