Waste-to-Energy Plan on Board Agenda
JEANENE HARLICK / Santa Cruz Sentinel 5may03
Mindfully.org note: All of this may sound like a solution to the garbage problem, but it is only incineration with a fancy name. Waste-to-energy is incineration. No matter what incredible stories the industry can pump out, it will always be incineration. And incineration turns our household waste into toxic pollutants spewed out into our air that travel far and near. The landfills are nearing the end of their useful lives, but that is NO excuse for incineration—none at all! Our waste MUST be recycled by reuse rather than by incineration. NO amount of money saved is worth using incinerators. The money that would be saved by the use of incinerators would be overshadowed by the increased cost of healthcare by hundreds of times. Asthma, cancers, and a host of deformities and developmental problems increase as incineration and other methods of combustion increase.
COUNTY — It turns out the movie "Back to the Future" wasn’t far off the mark when it cast a Delorean sports car fueled by trash.
If a local plan gains steam — both literally and figuratively — your spent gum and leftover tuna casserole could one day lube your neighbor’s sedan or power his computer.
That’s the hope of county Supervisor Jeff Almquist, who is asking the board Tuesday to move forward with an investigation of a regional waste-to-energy facility.
Eyeing Monterey and San Benito counties as partners, Almquist says the idea could be the solution to a landfill short on space.
"Building another dump comes with a lot of environmental constraints, is very expensive, and all you’re left with at the end is another old dump with a limited life," he said. "(Waste-to-energy) facilities have a dual benefit in that they both get rid of garbage and provide energy."
The typical "transformation" facility, as it’s called, creates fuel by burning garbage. The heat produced is harnessed into a water boiler, and the resulting steam drives a turbine generator that produces electricity. The process leaves behind ash, however, which must be disposed of.
A newer technology called thermal depolymerization, or TDP, also turns offal into oil. Being considered by city officials in Philadelphia, TDP speeds up the decomposition of organic material through intense heat and pressure to produce oil, gas and minerals.
While transformation facilities are plentiful on the East Coast, where land is in short supply, they are rare out west. California has just a handful of such facilities.
However, several communities, including Bakersfield and San Diego County, have waste-to-energy projects in the works.
"There’s definitely a new push to start looking at these types of plants in other jurisdictions," said Patrick Mathews, county solid waste and recycling manager.
The time for a local waste-to-energy facility is ripe, Almquist says. The county landfill is slated to fill up in about 13 years, which is about how long it takes to get a transformation facility up and running.
Efforts to extend the landfill’s life by hauling out a million cubic yards of dirt to nearby property were stalled this year by neighbors who opposed the move.
Almquist already has a site in mind for the project — the former National Refractories plant in Moss Landing. The 200-acre plot, now up for sale, sits conveniently beside Duke Energy. A rail line also runs nearby.
The site’s been eyed before for power projects. In 2000, a tri-county effort to put a power plant there lost momentum when it was discovered the land is home to a chromium stockpile, groundwater storage tank and two dumps. County leaders were cowed by the environmental work necessary to see the plan to fruition.
Almquist, however, doesn’t think the toxins should pose much of a problem this time around. And at any rate, he says, the benefits of waste-to-energy far outweigh the trouble, he said.
He points to a transformation facility in Onondaga County, N.Y., as an example. Up and running in 1994, the facility has reduced the county’s solid waste volume by 90 percent and generates enough energy to power 20,000 homes. Its three combustion units burn 990 tons of garbage daily.
A similar facility would more than take care of the 120,000 tons of trash buried yearly at the Santa Cruz County landfill.
The project would likely pay for itself, Almquist said. Revenue from energy sales added to money saved from building and operating a new dump should take care of costs, he explained.
That’s been the case for Los Angeles County, which operates two waste-to-energy stations, in Long Beach and the city of Commerce.
Financed initially by local bonds and built in the mid-1980s, the Southern California facilities cost $108 million and $40 million, respectively, to construct. That would equate to about triple the amount today, said Joe Haworth, information officer for the Sanitation District of Los Angeles County.
Together, the two transformation stations burn 1,550 tons of garbage a day and produce enough energy to power about 46,000 homes, Haworth said.
"The combination of the tipping fees plus electrical revenue comes close to paying for the facilities," he said. "Historically, two-thirds of the cost has been covered by energy sales and one-third by the tipping fee."
The sanitation district had to battle pollution concerns from air district officials to get the stations built, Haworth said. But the facilities use agents such as ammonia and powdered lime to minimize harmful oxides, and the "bag house" — essentially a big, thick vacuum cleaner bag — traps the ash, Haworth said.
"People (think of) the old smokestacks of the Pittsburgh steel factories that would just blacken the sky," he said. "But the bag house removes all that stuff."
The district puts its ash in a cement mixer and turns it into concrete, tying up the heavy metals. The concrete is used to lay roads at the county landfill.
"It’s very handy," Haworth said.
Contact Jeanene Harlick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
source: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/cgi-bin/p/psafe/psafe.pl 13may03
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