September 21, 2010 | General

Regional Roundup

BioCycle September 2010, Vol. 51, No. 9, p. 16

East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University’s new Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center will play host to an Anaerobic Digester Operator Training Program to be held October 26-28, 2010. Topics to be covered: anaerobic digester start-up and system restarts, operation and process control, process indicators, operational and sampling schedules, safety, biogas utilization systems and regulations. The safety component will include a walkthrough of an on-farm anaerobic system. Panel discussions feature system operators – agricultural, industrial and wastewater – and technology providers, and a tour of the MSU waste to resource/anaerobic digestion lab. The program cost will be $600, and enrollment will be limited to the first 30 individuals. For additional information and to register, contact Dana Kirk at; (517) 432-6530.
San Francisco, California
The City by the Bay announced in late August that it has shattered its goal of reaching at least 75 percent landfill diversion by 2010 and that it now has the highest recycling record of any city in the country. Mayor Gavon Newsom says the current rate of 77 percent diversion is up 5 percent from last year. Figures compiled by the city’s Environment Department for 2008 show San Francisco diverted more than 1.6 million tons of material – double the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge – through recycling, composting and reuse. The lowest disposal on record, 560,000 tons, went to the landfill.
“San Francisco is showing once again that doing good for our environment also means doing right by our economy and local job creation,” said Mayor Newsom. “For a growing number of people, recycling provides the dignity of a paycheck in tough economic times. The recycling industry trains and employs men and women in local environmental work that can’t be outsourced and sent overseas, creating ten times as many jobs as sending material to landfills.” Recology, the city’s primary recycling company, employs more than 1,000 people in San Francisco and in the past few years, has added 118 new employees to sort recyclables and monitor collection routes in order to meet San Francisco’s aggressive recycling goals.
In related news, San Francisco Zero Waste Manager Jack Macy was named Recycler of the Year at the recent annual convention of the nonprofit California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA). The city aims to stop landfilling waste by 2020. “Macy has done a tremendous amount of work creating fabulous programs that could spread across the nation,” said CRRA executive director Stephen Bantillo.
Woodstock, Ontario
Organic Resource Management Inc. (ORMI), based in Toronto, Ontario, recently acquired a property in Woodstock to construct an Organic Residuals Recovery Transfer Station (ORRTS). The facility will receive grease trap waste, FOG (fats, oils and grease), toter-collected source separated food waste, slurried grocery store organics and industrial dissolved air flotation (DAF) sludges from commercial, institutional and industrial generators in Ontario and western Quebec. ORMI will blend these feedstocks into a slurry to be delivered to anaerobic digesters on five Ontario farms. “We have 20 year contracts to be the exclusive feedstock supplier to these farms,” says Douglas Carruthers, senior vice president of ORMI. “We also can blend feedstocks for industrial and municipal digesters.” The facility, expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2011, will receive up to 150 tons/day of materials.
The receiving building at the transfer station will include a DODA bioseparator to process the FOG and toter-collected food waste to remove contaminants and make a slurry. Food waste from collection trucks servicing the toters will be combined into bulk trailers at third party transfer stations for transport to Woodstock. Separate tanks will receive the grease trap waste, FOG and DAF. “The building will not have a traditional tipping floor,” explains Carruthers. “All movement of materials is enclosed. The facility will create a homogenized blend of feedstock and allow for some initial hydrolysis breakdown, resulting in a conditioned material. We can hang an octane rating on the tanker truck so the farms know what we are sending.” Adding this material to the digesters significantly boosts biogas production.
The five farms use continuous mix, mesophilic digester technologies that can handle 8 to 11 percent solids content. The blend is unloaded into storage tanks and then pumped into a pasteurization unit that heats the material to 70°C (held for one hour) prior to being fed into the digesters. ORMI currently operates grease trap waste facilities in Toronto and Ottawa that process materials into a clean slurry. Those operations also receive DAF sludges and slurried grocery store food waste. “These feedstocks have been blended and utilized in anaerobic digesters for over three years, which has given us the experience to move forward with the ORRTS in Woodstock,” adds Carruthers. “We installed a DODA bioseparator at the Toronto facility last fall, which is very effective in removing trash from the materials we receive.”
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
A Martha’s Vineyard golf course has been chemical pesticide and herbicide free since its inception eight years ago. Before Vineyard Golf Club even broke ground, developers struck a deal with environmentally friendly island dwellers to put the course on the map as one of the country’s only organically maintained facilities. Superintendent Jeff Carlson described a “team approach” to pest and disease control that combines use of natural products such as Sustane, a composted turkey manure fertilizer, with common-sense cultural practices. He’s also experimented with compost teas, though his current regime does not include them.
Despite the challenges of managing primarily with natural fertilizers, Carlson says, “the greens are getting better, not worse. Pesticides are like antibiotics in the grass – you could make a case that their continued use causes some degree of sterilization of the microbial activity; you are knocking out the good bugs. Hopefully, what we are seeing is that the greens are beginning to fight off a lot of these diseases with their own beneficial microbial fungi and bacteria. There is a lot of stuff going on inside the soil that we don’t really know too much about.”
Carlson says superintendents across the industry are being pushed toward more natural methods of management by consumer awareness, new knowledge about turf and soil management and shear economics. “If you don’t have to spray every fairway and tee green, that saves a lot on the chemical budget,” he says. “The thing that most drives how we manage our courses is what our golfers perceive as a good golf course. Mono-stands of green grasses and all those practices lead to more pesticide use. There needs to be a paradigm shift of how golfers look at courses in order to put the stress on excellent playability versus visual perception. We are, as an industry, not 100 percent there yet.”
St. Peters, Missouri
The Solid Waste Association of North America recently chose the city of St. Peters as winner of the 2010 Gold Excellence Award in Composting. This is the third major honor the city has received in recent years for its Organic Resource Recycling Program (ORRP), which turns dewatered biosolids and yard trimmings into high-quality compost. In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded St. Peters (population 58,000) a National Clean Water Act Recognition Award in the category of Exemplary Biosolids Management for a large operating facility. In 2007, St. Peters received an Outstanding Management of Wastewater Plant Biosolids award from the Missouri Water Environment Association for developing and implementing cost-effective, environmentally safe and publicly acceptable biosolids management practices.
The city collects yard trimmings curbside and opened the Earth Centre facility for drop-off. The dewatered biosolids from St. Peters’ wastewater treatment plant are processed, mixed, composted and tested. The ORRP recycles 6,000 tons of biosolids annually and 30,000 cubic yards of yard trimmings into reusable mulch and compost. St. Peters residents are entitled to two free cubic yards of compost or mulch each year. Between 2,000 and 3,000 residents pick up free compost or mulch from the Earth Centre each year (and may purchase more than their free allotment at a discounted rate). The city uses the compost for erosion control, to help grow vegetation after construction projects and in constructed wetland projects.
Lemoore, California
California farmland ruined by decades of irrigation is slated to become one of the largest solar array fields in the world – potentially, according to The New York Times, generating as much power as several nuclear plants. The proposed 30,000-acre Westlands Solar Park near Lemoore – in the San Joaquin Valley about 30 miles south of Fresno – would reside on 47 square miles of once-fertile farmland largely owned by the Westlands Water District and retired from agricultural production due to high salt levels in soils as well as chronic water shortages. The project has received broad support from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, agricultural interests and state government.
Proponents of the project say that since the land has been farmed for so long, there are no issues to contend with regarding impacts to wildlife – issues that have derailed other potential solar farm projects in California. At peak power, the proposed project could generate up to 1 gigawatt of power, enough energy for about million homes. Not too far from the Interstate 5 corridor, the location offers another plus because it will be relatively easy to deliver the generated power to transmission lines and substations. Some farmers in the area have said that leasing some of their land for solar would free up water rights that would allow them to farm other areas adequately. According to published reports, the project represents a trend to site alternative energy projects such as wind and solar on despoiled lands such as toxic waste and landfill sites.
College Station, Texas
Everything you ever wanted to know about rainwater harvesting but didn’t know enough to ask could aptly describe a new publication by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. “Rainwater Harvesting: System Planning” (publication number B-6240) is 206 pages chock full of the tips, answers and best management practices associated with planning and installing rainwater catchment systems of all sizes, explains Billy Kniffen, AgriLife Extension’s state rainwater harvesting specialist. “The manual is designed to assist designers and installers of rainwater collection systems in properly planning, sizing, installing and using rainwater for inside and outside use,” Kniffen says. “The rainwater harvesting business could easily become a sideline or new career for such people as engineers, contractors, roofers and plumbers seeking added income or a complete change of work.”
Kniffen calls the manual the first of its kind, offering technical information for professionals as well as practical advice for the do-it-yourselfer considering a small home system. The manual is also designed and written to function as a complete educational guide and textbook curriculum for instructors in college or industry. “It will help those in the business consider all aspects of the construction of a system from bids and contracts to properly installing and maintaining systems,” Kniffen says. The 17-chapter spiral-bound manual has a table of contents, color photos, diagrams and extensive appendices including tables and figures, uniform plumbing code, references and answers to study exercises found in several of the book’s chapters. The manual retails for $48.50 and may be ordered from the Texas AgriLife Bookstore at:
San Carlos, California
RethinkWaste of the South Bayside Waste Management Authority recently began phased delivery of 276,000 recycling, compost and garbage carts to 92,000 residences within its service area. Residents will receive a black “Garbage” cart in the size of their choosing, a 64-gallon single-stream blue “Recycle” cart and 96-gallon green “Compost” cart. The wheeled carts will be serviced by a new automated collection fleet of 72 side loaders, replacing the existing Allied Waste fleet of rear loaders with two-person crews. RethinkWaste’s partner, Recology, invested approximately $35 million for the new residential collection fleet and carts. “The start of the rollout is a significant and meaningful milestone for our customers,” said Kevin McCarthy, executive director of RethinkWaste. Single-stream recycling means those customers will no longer be required to separate paper products from plastic, metal and glass containers in separate recycling tubs. Once everyone has their carts, within about 3-1/2 months, residents will also receive a 2-gallon kitchen pail for in-home compost collection.

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