GREENVILLE — Fixing and maintaining garbage trucks at Darke County’s Rumpke transfer station can be a dirty job indeed. Even something as simple as a change in the weather can lead to unexpected difficulties.
“The winter’s hard on the trucks,” Rumpke mechanic Ross Etter said. “Makes them not want to start. Especially this year, when we had how many below-zero days?” In addition, he said, salt coming off the roads can cause corrosion to the engines’ wiring, leading to difficulty with the trucks’ electrical systems. And, while easier to deal with than snow, spring rains have been known to cause problems as well.
Rumpke is a Cincinnati-based trash processing and recycling company that operates 12 landfills, 17 transfer stations, and a fleet of over 1700 vehicles, which service most of Ohio and Kentucky and portions of Indiana. Rumpke’s transfer station in Greenville opened in 1989, and currently employs about 85 people. The transfer station is where trash from homes and businesses around Greenville is offloaded from smaller, local garbage trucks, consolidated into large semi trailers, and shipped across greater distances, either to the company’s landfill in Colerain or their recycling center in St. Bernard.
Etter, a Bradford native, is a Mechanic Level III at Rumpke’s Greenville station, where he’s worked for 11 years.
“When you come in, there’s usually trucks down that need repaired,” Etter said of his average workday. “Or there are parts that need to be put on. So I just go out onto the lot and find what needs to be worked on.”
Etter’s favorite part of the job are “road calls,” where he gets to leave the familiar confines of the garage and service malfunctioning company vehicles on the fly.
“They call in with a problem, and we do our best to figure out what the problem is and grab as many parts as possible before going out there,” Etter said. “You’re out in the weather, but it’s more of a challenge than just working in the shop all day.”
Variety, Etter said, is what helps make his job at Rumpke so enjoyable.
“It’s not monotonous, the way a factory job would be,” Etter said. “You may have thought you’d seen it all, but you always end up seeing something new.”
There are also some less pleasant issues that go along with working in proximity to trash every day, of course, though mostly these come down to nuisances such as nasty smells.
“Usually, the problem with smells isn’t so much this year’s trash as last year’s trash,” Etter said. “It gets worked into the nooks and crannies on the trucks, and it just festers. It’s awful.”
Another issue, according to Etter, is just the smell of grease and other engine chemicals, which can work itself into your clothes over time to the point that it becomes unnoticeable… to you. This doesn’t mean that others won’t notice it, however.
“You’ll notice it once somebody tells you,” Etter said.
Despite the nasty smells, however, Etter said the job has given him opportunities to take classes and advance within the company. And Rumpke Communications Director Molly Yeager said that more mechanic positions are about to become available at the Greenville facility, as well as a potential foreman’s position.
If nothing else, however, there are always those road calls to look forward to.
“Whenever a road call comes up, I’m like, ‘Come on. I know you can see me waving my hand over here!’” Etter said.
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