Group To Offer Conclusions On Landfill Proposals

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By: Diana T. Barth
Published: 09/10/10

Should the town turn its landfill gases over to a regulated utility to be scrubbed and sent out to natural gas consumers? Should it allow a different company to gasify the wood in its construction and demolition debris? Or should it explore one of a number of other technologies that companies have put forward during the past months?

Bourne Selectmen, Board of Health, and Finance Committee members and others have been invited to hear the conclusions of the Landfill Business Model Working Group, which has been hearing proposals from private entities that want to use their technologies at Bourne’s landfill.

The joint meeting is set for Tuesday at 6:30 PM at Bourne Middle School library.

While members of the working group were tasked with evaluating the presenters as well as technologies, they are expected to make recommendations as to which technologies are worth further exploration at next week’s meeting.

They have had a number of interesting proposals brought before them, including a proposal made two weeks ago by National Grid, which would like to take the gas generated by decomposing trash, scrub it clean, and pipe it to their natural gas customers.

On August 26, representatives of the public utility put a proposal before the working group that would use the landfill gases that are now collected and burned at the facility’s flare. National Grid would “on their own dime” build the scrubber that would remove impurities from those gases and the infrastructure needed to pipe the end product to customers, Bourne landfill environmental manager Philip A. Goddard said.

The company would also take care of all of the permitting and Department of Public Utilities requirements, paying Bourne a leasing fee that would go up or down based on the amount of landfill gases used, Mr. Goddard said. The company also proposed generating enough electricity at the town facility to run its operation and offset some of the landfill’s energy costs, he said.

Asked how the proposal stacked up against the landfill management’s own plans to use that gas to generate electricity, Mr. Goddard said that departmental personnel and their consultants were in the process of answering that question.

The town has been pursuing the type of air emission permitting necessary to begin its own gas-to-energy operation with the Department of Environmental Protection, and that process will provide the landfill with the information needed to balance the cost of owning its own infrastructure, and retaining any profits from its operations, with any anticipated leasing fees.

It is, Mr. Goddard said, an analysis that needs to be performed by experts. Another type of expert would also be needed, he said, were the town to enter into any agreement with a private company.

If the town foregoes, for example, any use of its gases for several years while a private company pursues permitting, there should be some contract provisions in place to compensate the town for lost opportunities were that company or its technology fail to live up to its promises.

The landfill had to collect the gas generated in the landfill for odor control and other reasons, he said.

Yesterday, after press time, the Landfill Business Model Working Group was set to hear from Sandwich-based Turning Mill, a company that wants to gasify wood, a waste stream that landfills nationwide have found problematic to accept, producing waxes and other end products, as well as from GHD/WeCare, formerly Stearns & Wheler, a company that wants to dry biosolids and then turn them into gas.

The working group, headed by Selectman Donald J. Picard, has also heard from Harvest Power of Waltham, a company that works with a technology called anaerobic digestion, and Brightfields Development LLC, which works with solar power.

Selectmen have already expressed an interest in another company that came before the working group, Plankton Power. That company wants to bottle the emissions from the landfill’s flare and bring them to Woods Hole, where the carbon dioxide in those emissions will be used to “feed” a special type of algae that can be processed to make biofuel. That short-term pilot project is one that could be extended if the flare’s emissions turn out to be useful for their intended purposes.

Next Tuesday, attendees at the joint meeting will be hearing about all of those competing technologies, and begin determining which, if any, should be pursued by the landfill.

A push-pull has been developing, however, over which board or boards, exactly, will be making that determination.

At Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, that board heard that Town Counsel Robert S. Troy has, again, been asked to weigh in on the question of who controls the landfill. His opinion might, for example, clarify whether selectmen can enter into a contract that affects waste gases.

Board of health members, who say the landfill site assignment puts control of landfill operations directly into their hands, are of the opinion they have the final word on those matters.

Board of health Chairman Kathleen M. Peterson said that her board may not have the say on who will be the new manager of the Department of Integrated Solid Waste Management, or what its budget will be, but they do have control over tonnage, the waste stream, and other operations on the site.

The board of health, Ms. Peterson said, is not interested in hearing about grant-funded proposals, she said, but will hold hearings and vote on any formal proposals for the use of the site.

In the meantime, members of the board of selectmen, board of health, FinCom, Capital Outlay and Selectmen’s Energy Advisory Committee are all expected to come to Tuesday’s meeting to hear the working group’s recommendations.

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