04/29/07 — Landfill director Cook retiring May 1

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Landfill director Cook retiring May 1

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 29, 2007 2:00 AM

For 19 years, Lloyd Cook has been surrounded by trash at work, but on Tuesday, he will be turning over the job of keeping Wayne County clean to someone else.

Cook started as Wayne County's solid waste director in 1988, a year after he retired from the U.S. Air Force as a chief master sergeant. He had spent 30 years in the service.

Now, he is retiring again.

"This was a brand new position that was created, and I had the managerial skills (the county manager) was looking for," Cook said.

At that time, he explained that the job was much different than what it has become today.

"When I came, the landfill was fairly simple. That was back in the days when you just dug a trench, filled it up, covered it and that was the end of it," Cook said.

Today, running a landfill has become a little more complicated.

Liners have to be installed, methane collection and burn systems and leachate collection and pump systems have to operate 24 hours a day/seven days a week, and the water quality in wells surrounding the landfill in Dudley and the old one in Pikeville have to be tested twice a year.

"When I came here, it was a very primitive operation. Now it's a very high-tech operation," he said. "It's not as simple as it used to be. It take a little more watching now, but it's slightly less labor-intensive."

In addition, recycling is now done at the landfill and at all 13 convenience centers -- each of which has seen significant upgrades -- and the solid waste department has increased from 17 employees to 52.

Each of those changes has come under Cook's direction.

"Lloyd has just been a champion of the landfill," County Manager Lee Smith said. "That's always been one area of Wayne County I don't have to worry about.

"Wayne County is indebted to him. He runs a clean operation and he's cost efficient. He runs it like a business."

One of the biggest changes Cook oversaw was the beginning of Wayne County's recycling program, which started in 1990.

He then oversaw the closing of the landfill in Pikeville in 1992 and the opening of the first $5.5 million lined landfill in 1998. Since then, a second, $4 million cell has been opened as well.

Other changes also have been implemented since 1998 as environmental standards have gotten stricter and the recycling program has expanded.

He's most proud of the county's recycling program, which has done so well that a recycling coordinator was recently hired.

"When we began recycling in 1990, we had a great percentage of the people who were ready to do it," Cook said.

In fact, he continued, the program got off to such a good start, they were slightly underprepared to handle the amount of recyclable goods brought in. The 50-gallon drums they had set up at their convenience sites weren't large enough to accommodate the materials, and Cook quickly had to buy several 20- to 40-cubic-yard containers.

"The response was really good. Most residents took to it pretty quickly," he said. "Recycling's come a long way. I think the majority of Wayne County has accepted it very well."

He also noted that county residents have helped keep Wayne County clean by taking advantage of the 13 convenience sites set up around the county -- north, south, east and west.

"The way we set things up, it's kept a lot of stuff off the roadways," Cook said.

And for all those reasons, he's proud of how he's leaving the department he more or less helped create.

"From the time I came here until now, I've seen the county move forward and the solid waste program has really improved. There's some good people here. I leave here feeling very good because we've come a long ways," he said. "The solid waste program in Wayne County is in outstanding shape."

And with only 80 acres of the 400 to 450 acres at the landfill closed, he's expecting the program to stay in good shape for many years to come.

"This landfill will probably be in this place right here, a minimum of the next 35 to 40 years. It'll serve Wayne County for a long time to come, especially if we recycle even more, because then, the more space and money we'll save," Cook said.

But he's also happy he won't be there to see it all.

"It's just time. I know it's my time to retire now and let the younger breed take over," he said. "My wife (Bonnie) and I are in good health so there's some things we want to do. I'm almost 67 and there's just some things I want to do."

"We want to travel back (to Rome, N.Y.) where we first started in 1959 and look around and reminisce a little bit. I tell everybody we're going to have some fun."