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[GreenYes] Trash: Torch or transfer? Fla's second waste pyrolysis project

Trash: Torch or transfer? Citrus Co Chronicle Jan 2007_t_ (mailto:terrywitt@no.address) County seeks alternatives to landfill by considering burn facility, transfer station he future of garbage disposal in Citrus County is at a crossroads. County solid waste officials hope to hire a Tampa firm later this month to design and engineer a solid waste transfer station that most likely would be built at the Citrus County Landfill. If the transfer station were constructed, garbage would be dumped in a large building and reloaded on 18-wheel trucks for transport to a private landfill southeast of Orlando. While the planning continues for the transfer station, the county is investigating a lesser known method of garbage disposal involving a technology that has never been successfully used in Florida. County commissioners have asked staff to determine whether it would be possible to build a waste-to-energy plant at the landfill. The method, called pyrolysis, would heat garbage to high temperatures, causing it to decompose rapidly. Gases produced as a byproduct of the pryolysis could be burned to generate electricity. No decision has been made about whether to build the transfer station or construct a pyrolysis plant, but the pyrolysis option appears less likely at this point. “From what I’ve seen so far, I’m not ready to jump on that,” said Solid Waste Division Director Susie Metcalfe. The county has plenty of time to decide which option is best. Its lined garbage cell at the landfill won’t reach capacity for five to six years. Researching pyrolysis Metcalfe has hired a group of University of Florida students to research pyrolysis. The students will produce a report about how pyrolysis works and whether it could be used at the landfill. Pyrolysis would heat the garbage to high temperatures in an oxygen-free chamber. The garbage would degrade quickly into gases, bio-oil and charcoal. But Metcalfe said she isn’t certain whether the technology would work at a garbage landfill. From her limited knowledge of the technology, she has heard pyrolysis works best when one type of material, such as wood chips, is fed into the plant. She said household garbage consists of a wide range of materials. Two companies, Superior Waste Solution and Effe Inc. and Associates, approached commissioners in November last year about using pyrolysis at the landfill. Company representatives said they could build a pyrolysis plant for $50 million to $60 million. Tipping fees used by landfill customers could be pledged to pay back industrial bonds that would finance the plant. They said the fees would not have to be raised. One decision has been made by the county commission about the future of garbage disposal. Commissioners have agreed they will not build a new landfill in Citrus County. Landfills are costly to permit, develop and maintain, and residents generally take a dim view of having a landfill built in their back yard. The county is becoming more urbanized. Staff will ask commissioners on Jan. 23 to award King Engineering of Tampa the contract to design and engineer a transfer station. After the design is complete, the station can be constructed, if that is the commission’s desire. Transfer option Transfer stations are not complicated. Garbage trucks dump their loads in a building. Most of the garbage is compacted and loaded on 18-wheel trucks for the trip to the landfill. In Citrus County, about 18 to 20 tractor-trailers loaded with garage would leave the Citrus County Landfill each day. The loads would be covered to prevent trash from blowing onto the highway. County staff has recommended hauling the garbage to a private landfill owned by Waste Services Inc. in Osceola County. The landfill is about 20 miles southeast of metropolitan Orlando. But the contract has not been awarded. The drawback with a waste transfer station is cost. Landfill tipping fees would substantially increase and might double if Citrus County’s garbage was transferred to Osceola County, according to Meltcalfe. She said the county has only preliminary cost estimates at this point. Marion County uses a solid waste transfer station to transport its garage to a landfill in South Georgia. The Citrus County transfer station would operate much the same way, with 18-wheel trucks hauling the garbage from the Citrus County Landfill. Environmental agencies Richard Tedder, program administrator for the solid waste division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said there are no pyrolysis plants operating in Florida. He said a pyrolysis plant operated at Walt Disney World in the 1970s, but was dismantled. However, Tedder said if the two firms that approached Citrus County could meet state permitting rules, he sees no reason why a plant could not be constructed in Citrus County. He said the plant would have to meet air emission, solid waste and stormwater regulations. “Is it possible to get a permit if they provide reasonable assurances it could meet our rule requirements?” he said. “I would say it is possible … probable.” Tedder said pyrolysis works in the laboratory when a single batch of materials is used. He is not sure if anyone has attempted to make pyrolysis work with “continuous flow” of landfill garbage. Jon Johnson, bureau chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program, said the EPA would not get involved in licensing a pyrolysis plant. He said Florida’s DEP is authorized to handle those matters. Making recommendation Public Works Director Glenn McCracken, who is Metcalfe’s boss, said he and Metcalfe met with a representative of Superior Waste Solutions Inc., Michael Moore, about building a pyrolysis plant. McCracken said the process looks good on paper, but the county is required to dispose of 350 tons of garbage every day at the landfill, and pyrolysis, as best he can tell, is an unproven process. Since it would ultimately be his responsibility to make a recommendation to the county commission, McCracken said whatever he recommends has to be financially viable and must be a proven process that can be permitted by the state. “I want something that is a proven process. We’re talking about (using it for) 20 years,” he said. “I want something to recommend to the board that’s been done before and that we know works.” McCracken said the companies that want to build the pyrolysis plant have made no formal proposal. The county doesn’t know whether the companies would accept garbage from other counties to make the plant financially feasible. Also, staff is not sure which type of air emissions a pyrolysis plant produces when landfill garbage is burned. If the pyrolysis venture falls through, the county wants to be in a position to go forward with the transfer station. For that reason, staff is moving forward with the planning and design phase for the transfer station while it investigates pyrolysis. “I’m not being skeptical here. I’d love to find a process for disposing of this stuff without having to bury it,” McCracken said. “I don’t think you will find anyone on staff or among the commissioners who are not open to doing it some other way than burying.” But at the same time, McCracken said he has to be comfortable with whatever option they choose because the county is looking for a long-term solution to a big problem that won’t go away — how to dispose of 350 tons of garbage daily.


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