Everything that Fort Dodge residents throw in the garbage ends up in the domain of Mike Grell.
Grell presides over the sprawling regional landfill on the south side of the city. It's a place he's been affiliated with for much of his life. And he tells anyone who asks that the smell of all that accumulated trash isn't so bad because it's covered with dirt every day.
He is the director of landfill operations for the North Central Iowa Regional Solid Waste Agency based in Fort Dodge. His work involves handling what he calls a ''staggering'' amount of incoming trash while keeping the site in compliance with environmental regulations.
MIKE GRELL, DIRECTOR OF LANDFILL OPERATIONS at the regional landfill on the south side of Fort Dodge, perches on the large bulldozer he usually operates. Grell has been in the director’s job for about a year and a half, but has been affiliated with the facility for about 35 years.
''There's a lot of satisfaction in doing the job and doing it right,'' he said.
Grell first roamed the grounds of the landfill as a boy when it was the Fort Dodge city dump managed by his father, Pat Grell. At the time, the trash was burned and the ashes were pushed into a big hole by a bulldozer.
After graduating from Fort Dodge Senior High School, he went to work with his father in a contracting business called Pat Grell and Sons Excavating and Demolition. The company later became Grell Excavating and Demolition.
Although he was a contractor, Grell's connection with the landfill didn't end. His company operated the landfill for five years. It also installed the sewer and water lines that serve the site.
He joined the staff of the solid waste agency seven years ago. About a year and a half ago he was promoted to director of landfill operations.
Grell figures he's been affiliated with the landfill in one capacity or another for 35 years.
''Experience is the key to a lot of things,'' he said.
Overseeing the general operations of the facility and maintaining it to state and federal environmental standards are his primary responsibilities. But he's also a hands-on manager who spends much of his work days operating a bulldozer.
He supervises five full-time employees and three part-time employees.
''We're getting a good team of guys and getting the work done right,'' he said.
About 400 to 500 tons of trash is deposited daily at the landfill, according to Grell. It comes from Calhoun, Hamilton, Humboldt and Webster counties.
Grell explained that collected trash is dumped out of the trucks into a bowl-shaped depression in the landfill. After the garbage is poured into the depression, a large machine called a compactor is driven over it. The compactor has a round drum with steel teeth protruding from it.
''This pokes, shreds, dices and compacts this garbage,'' Grell said.
At the end of each day, dirt is spread over the top of the garbage.
But before any garbage is dumped, the depression must be lined with synthetic membranes and drainage pipes must be placed to collect water that trickles through the accumulated trash.
''It's getting very expensive and technical,'' Grell said.
He earned a landfill operator certification from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources by completing a 30-hour course. He has to get recertified every two years.