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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, January 21, 2010

Land full
Compost and burn instead of dumping

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALBANY COUNTY — Approaching what is assumed to be the last expansion of the Rapp Road landfill, the city of Albany has begun preparing a new solid waste management plan.

The 190-page draft form of the new plan, created by the engineering firm Clough, Harbour & Associates, was presented in December to the steering committee of a consortium of municipalities that use the city-owned dump.  Included in the Capital Region Solid Waste Management Partnership Planning Unit are New Scotland, Berne, Knox, Westerlo, Rensselaerville, Voorheesville, and Altamont.  Guilderland withdrew last year and now takes its waste to Colonie.

In June, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation permitted the dump to make its fifth expansion into the Pine Bush, which is home to the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

The expansion is expected to accommodate the consortium’s roughly 450-square-mile surface, serving about 220,000 people, until 2016.

Some of the plans included in the draft, though, wouldn’t be complete until 2018.  In the meantime, the consortium would bring its waste to a commercial landfill, it says.

The objectives of the plan are to provide waste disposal until 2030 and to lower the amount of waste going into the landfill.

The second objective will be handled by educating residents about reducing their waste; collecting and treating food and yard waste separately from general garbage; and by using a “mass burn waste to energy facility,” or a comparable “new technology.”

The last two are the most significant proposals for changes in operation.

“As the name implies, Source Separated Organic Waste (SSOW) composting involves the separation, collection and processing of certain organic components [of municipal solid waste] as feedstock to make compost products for reuse,” the draft says.  “As defined in these regulations, SSOW means ‘readily degradable organic material that has been separated from non-compostable material at the point of generation, including but not limited to food waste, soiled or unrecyclable paper and yard waste in combination with any of the former materials.’”

About 19 percent of the waste that now goes into the dump is food, 11 percent paper, and 1 percent yard waste, according to the plan.  Of that 31 percent, about half of the paper wouldn’t be suitable for SSOW, so a maximum total of about 25 percent of what goes into the dump would be able to instead be composted.

The third component, likely to be the most controversial, includes a waste-to-energy facility, which is “a solid waste management strategy that combusts wastes to generate steam or electricity and reduces the volume of municipal solid waste (MSW) that would otherwise need to be disposed of by approximately 80-90 percent.”

The cost of such a facility, though, could be $332 million, which was the price paid in 2009 in Frederick County, Md.

“Such a facility would recover additional materials, energy, bio-fuels and other byproducts from the post-recyclable solid waste stream using either the conventional waste-to-energy technologies or one of the emerging technologies,” the draft says.

“This SWMP envisions that this facility would be developed by a regional solid waste management authority which would be formed to implement this project as well as other elements of a fully integrated regional solid waste management system,” the draft says.     “Implementation of this facility would not occur until after the regional solid waste management authority is formed… under this approach, the project would seek a developer to design, build and operate the facility on behalf of the regional planning unit and solid waste management authority.  The earliest that such a facility could be ready for operation is 2018.”

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