City looks at plan to turn sludge into fuel
Environmentalists doubt claims of clean energy
Wilmington is quietly exploring a venture that would convert treated sewage waste into a fuel for power plants or industry, hoping to avert a looming disposal headache at northern Delaware's regional wastewater plant.
David Small, deputy secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said city officials disclosed their discussions with California-based EnerTech Environmental Inc. in a letter to the agency.
"It was very preliminary," said William Montgomery, chief of staff to Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker. He said the city's message to DNREC was: "We're looking at this new technology. What do you think of it?"
In a telephone interview on Friday, EnerTech Chief Executive Officer Kevin Bolin described current discussions with Wilmington as "informational and exploratory."
In late December, however, Enertech asked city officials to support an evaluation of prospects for a plant in Wilmington. The study could produce a proposal to "fully develop, design, finance, construct and operate this facility with no financial support or risk by the city," with startup 24 months after contract approval.
One approach could involve importing the sewage waste, known as sludge, from other communities for processing with Wilmington's output, the city noted.
Enertech recently won approval to build a $50 million plant in Rialto, Calif., that will create dry fuel from 675 tons of sludge supplied by Rialto and several other cities and counties in the greater Los Angeles area. The company also operates a small plant in Georgia and two sites in Japan.
All three use a process that heats and dries sludge under pressure, creating a coal-like material that EnerTech calls "E-Fuel."
"Burning processed sewage sludge is something that we would look upon with great caution," said Alan Muller, who directs the environmental group Green Delaware. "We're highly skeptical. It's unlikely that this would be a preferred solution."
Muller said that he would be concerned about the fate of heavy metals and other pollutants left in the sludge. EnerTech described its product as "cleaner to combust than most coals."
Delaware Solid Waste Authority Chief Executive Pasquale S. Canzano said that EnerTech's process may offer a sustainable way of using sludge that now costs treatment plant customers $2 million a year for disposal.
"It's a fuel and it can be used in any boiler that burns coal-type products," said Canzano, who has samples of EnerTech's product in his Dover office. "In California, they're talking about using it in cement kilns, and we do have cement manufacturing in this area."
Canzano said that cement kilns use all of the sludge-based fuel. Unburned solids become a part of the cement itself, eliminating ash disposal problems.Contact Jeff Montgomery at 678-4277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BS Ranch Perspective:
Why Not, Everyone is looking for fuel in every kind of waist that we produce, why not our own Poop! We leave the waist to go to waist treatment plant in Rialto, and they move the sledge through the pools and then into a large tank where the sledge is heated at a temperature that can make the sledge more manageable, then the sledge is piled up and they either sell it to a plant that uses it for Fertilizer in our Gardens, or Lawns, and you wonder why the Fertilizer "Humus" was so stinky!