Strategic Options for Pole Disposal: Q&A with Richard Johnson, PEPCO Inc.


Strategic Options for Pole Disposal: Q&A with Richard Johnson, PEPCO Inc. When it comes to the disposal of old poles, utility companies have traditionally relied on landfill. Research shows that over 50% of U.S. utilities currently landfill some or all of their used pole material. For many utilities, landfill is often the only viable current disposal option, especially for CCA-treated poles. Currently, three companies collect more than half of the nation’s trash: Waste Management, Allied Waste Industries, and Republic Services. However, that option is shrinking (literally) as existing landfill space is declining. Waste Management says the weighted average remaining landfill life for all of their owned (or operated) landfills nationwide is approximately 28 years; Allied Waste Industries says their average landfill life is 36 years; and Republic Services says their average landfill life is 27 years.

In light of these prognostications, we sat down with PEPCO Holdings’ Richard Johnson to discuss options within the utility industry regarding the disposal of wood waste and PEPCO Holdings’ own blueprint for dealing with this important issue. PEPCO is one of the largest energy delivery companies in the Mid-Atlantic region, serving about 2 million customers in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and New Jersey. Richard (C.P.M., C.P.S.M.) is Senior Strategic Relationship Manager at PEPCO and offers a unique perspective on this important issue based on two decades of experience in the utility business.

Q: Richard, does PEPCO Holdings have a formal disposal program?
A: Yes, we do. We’ve had a proactive disposal program in place for more than 30 years.

Q: And what option do you employ?
A: Well, we utilize a couple of approaches depending upon the treatment type used on the pole. Primarily, we either grind used material so it can be used as a biomass fuel, or we use landfill for material that cannot be incinerated or used as biomass fuel. The predominate historical chemical treatment in our waste stream is penta-treated poles, which we can use as biomass fuel. However, we still have to rely somewhat on landfill.