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home : news : news Wednesday, July 9, 2014

4/24/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Landfill board puts off decision on bioreactor

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

The board of directors of the Clinton County Area Solid Waste Agency (CCASWA), in a split vote, agreed to table a decision on the future of the bioreactor despite a recommendation from the executive board to cease bioreactor operations rather than pour a substantial sum of money into equipment repairs.

The bioreactor is a long, metal tube that uses heat and motion to process organic waste products into compost. The product is mixed with dirt for use as daily cover at the landfill site.

The bioreactor has been out of operation since last fall after a power outage Labor Day weekend. Material inside the vessel settled and attached to the interior the tube, and, since then, CCASWA has been unable to get the bioreactor motor to function properly.

The bioreactor has been in place at the landfill since 1999.

"It has been recommended in a meeting by the executive board we pursue a cease of operations on that equipment," Seward told the CCASWA board April 11.

Seward said the bioreactor motor has been checked out and is functioning, but it still isn't driving the vessel. Hupp Electric Motors has recommended doubling the power by purchasing a 200 hp drive that would cost $10,000-$11,000.

The motor was purchased in 2005 or 2006, according to Seward.

Renting a crane to get the vessel turning so the solidified material can be removed would cost another $4,000-$5,000, Seward said.

The trunions, or rollers, at the base of the machine also have suffered an unknown amount of damage, Seward said. The last time they were repaired, it cost CCASWA $20,000-$25,000, he stated.

"We've kind of got an albatross, and I think the general consensus is we've given this 10-plus years. There were a lot of fatal flaws from the start, before many people on this board were here," Seward said.

If the bioreactor were shutdown permanently, CCASWA would need another alternative for yard waste disposal.

Contracting privately to have yard waste ground three times per year would cost around $15,000, according to landfill operator Brock Swan of Progress Contracts.

Seward said the bioreactor reduced enough waste to save around one-and-a-half months of airspace per year when it was operating at full capacity but typically was operating at lower capacity due to recurring equipment problems.

Engineering consultant CJ Lage said the bioreactor diverts around 3,000 tons of waste per year and brings in revenue of $132,000, but it costs nearly $90,000 per year to operate, plus additional expenses to landfill reject material that is not compostable.

After accounting for revenue, reduced airspace needs and reduced groundwater taxes, it costs CCASWA an estimated $61,000 more per year to operate the bioreactor than it would to landfill the waste, according to Lage.

Clinton representative Jennifer Graf asked several questions about the compost material the bioreactor produces.

Seward explained the original project to install the bioreactor ran $1-2 million over budget, and, as a result, a screening plant never was put in. A second vessel was to have been added along with an underground leachate tank and wells to draw water.

Those parts of the project never were finished either, and CCASWA ended up with a product that can be mixed with dirt for use as daily cover but can't be sold as compost since it does not meet the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) definition due to the solid waste components it contains.

It would cost $3-4 million to properly set up the bioreactor, Seward said. Graf said she feels getting rid of the bioreactor would be like going backward.

Delmar representative Doug Goodall said CCASWA could make better use of the bioreactor facility by converting one building to a public drop off area and the other to a storage site for yard waste.

"Basically we have a giant composter. We can operate a composter a heck of a lot cheaper than $61,000 per year," Goodall said.

Charlotte representative Lori Jahn pointed out CCASWA would save a year-and-a-half of airspace over 10 years if the bioreactor were operational.

Lage said the question is whether that space savings is worth the operational cost when the funds could be set aside for construction of a new waste cell.

The bottom line is the equipment is a net cost to CCASWA, he said.

"The bottom line isn't always the environmental line," Graf said.

DeWitt representative Verlyn Scheckel said the agency could dump a lot of money into the bioreactor and still not get good use out of it.

"So now as the biggest user, the city of Clinton is going to have nothing (to deal with yard waste)?" Graf asked.

Goodall said CCASWA would set up a compost area and grind the material. Scheckel said that's how the city of DeWitt handles its yard waste.

Seward said CCASWA might be able to offer compost from ground yard waste for public sale in the long term.

Goodall said 40 percent of the material run through the bioreactor doesn't compost because it is solid waste, such as bowling balls and rubber gloves.

"We've still got the cost in there, and it's going into the landfill anyway," he said.

"I just feel we can utilize our facility better for $61,000 per year and not dump more money into the bioreactor," Goodall added.

Graf said she would rather spend $15,000 to see if CCASWA can get the equipment up and running again.

"How much are we willing to spend this year to see if it works?" Goodall questioned.

A motion by Graf to table a decision for one month and seek more information on repairs was approved, with representatives from Clinton, Clinton County, Andover, Charlotte, Delmar, Goose Lake and Wheatland voting in favor.

Representatives from Camanche, DeWitt, Grand Mound and Low Moor voted "no."

Seward said there is a substantial amount of yard waste on hand from last fall, and a new growing season has started so CCASWA may have to grind the existing yard waste to free up space.

Projects approved

The board approved three proposals that were tabled at the March meeting due to lack of a quorum.

The board approved the fiscal year 2014 financial assurance report to deposit $382,319 into CCASWA's dedicated fund to cover closure and post-closure costs at the landfill. The deposit will result in a fund balance of approximately $1.58 million.

Closure and post-closure costs are estimated at $3.5 million.

The board approved an agreement with Barker Lemar Engineering Consultants for $22,551 to install new wells and leachate peizometers and conduct water sampling and analysis. The data will be used in developing a plan for use in developing an assessment of corrective measures for the DNR due to the detection of groundwater contaminants.

The board also approved an amendment to the annual services contract with Barker Lemar for greenhouse gas reporting. The cost is $3,050 for three years.

Other business

In other business:

•A building has been constructed for a new Jackson County transfer station to replace the facility destroyed by fire a year ago, and work on the new transfer station should be complete by the end of the year, Seward reported.

Waste from Jackson County has been diverted to the Clinton County landfill since the fire at the Maquoketa transfer station.

CCASWA has landfilled 250 tons of trash from Jackson County in the 11 months since the fire.

•Lage reported inspections were completed in March at the west and east landfill sites and the report has been submitted to the DNR.


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