The incinerator plant was located in the Florida Keys. It’s a place where garbage trucks and homeowners could drop of home and yard waste. It was called a dump. Household waste was burned there and as it burned some escaped into the atmosphere as smoke and some as ash which was removed and buried into a landfill. Optimal incineration temperature is 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. As the waste burned the ash was moved with a series of sliding grates. As it moved through the furnace it dropped into a “quench tank” a long, tank filled with brackish water. The ash would settle onto the bottom and a conveyor would drag it out of the tank and onto a dump truck. Then to be transported to the top of the hill. “Mount Basura” a man made pile of ash and nonburnable household waste, kept under little control by a bulldozer.
One thing you do learn at the dump is an appreciation for the power of hydraulics. Most of the equipment and the furnaces were powered by the pressurized oil of hydraulics. Metal powered by hydraulics doesn’t stop with human interference.
Inside a big barn was the tipping floor where garbage trucks and vehicles were emptied. Once on the floor the men would pull out large pieces of metal, wire and anything that would not burn. Hosting an almost continuous ten foot high hill of garbage the air would get pretty thick in the south Florida heat. Human operated heavy vehicles called bucket loaders were used to separate and transport the waste to the incinerator.
It was a standard input output operation. Garbage in Garbage out as they say. Though not sustainable it was well before recycling became a necessity.
One thing those who worked there agreed on was that everything ended up at the dump.
Here is one of those things.
Early Tuesday morning, as typical, the garbage trucks came to dump their morning’s collection onto the tipping floor. The day progressed; Dump, separate. burn.
A truck with an anxious crew came rolling in. The two collectors jumped out and approached us.
One said “I think something’s alive in the back.” He grabbed a hold of the handle to open to compactor and push the garbage out. Slowly the back started to lift the garbage began to fall out. He continued.
“Something’s whining, sounds almost like a baby.” One of the fears garbage men face everyday is to find a human or something living in the trash. You could see the fear and a little panic on his face. He had the impossible task of pushing the garbage out as delicately as possible.
We all heard the moan. Carefully we separated the trash. Push, crash and separate. The fall from the top of the truck to the floor was about fifteen feet. It was another risk we had to put that living creature through. As we got closer to the mystery the moan changed into a whine. Somewhat relieved we realized it wasn’t human and we continued methodically through the trash.
My coworker said. “Found it.” He found a small, dark plastic bag it wiggled just a little bit. We cleared the area as Al gingerly opened the bag. Inside was a small black and brown puppy tied tightly with wire. We stood in shock.
While we looked on Charles and Al unwound the puppy. Finally free of the wires we could see the dog was in terrible shape. Charles wrapped the pup in a towel and amidst much concern, Al and the puppy took off for the vets. We went back to, watchfully, separating the garbage and discussing theories, motivations and frustrations. Soon we were through and the next truck was rolling in.
Eventually Al returned without the dog. He left the dog, by request of the vet, overnight at the clinic. He told us that the puppy had internal injuries and needed some stitches. Later on we found out that the internal injuries weren’t fatal and the only long term damage was the puppy would be blind in one eye
A month later beaming with the pride of a father Al introduced us to Lucky a very happy and playful puppy.