Iowa City considers turning garbage into gas


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

As landfill repairs near completion, Iowa City officials will now entertain proposals exploring new technologies that promise to divert garbage from the facility and extend the time before it reaches its capacity. One Maryland company may have an early lead in the considerations.

The repairs were necessary after a fire damaged a large portion of the 400-acre landfill in May 2012, which cost Iowa City roughly $3 million, the DI has previously reported.

Landfill Superintendent Dave Elias said he expects the repairs to be completed in August or September.

“We’ve had a couple of different proposals … come directly to staff … which have piqued our interest, and in order for us to proceed with detailed discussions, we have to follow our city procurement policies,” he said.

Interested parties must attend a conference Thursday in which they will tour the landfill, and they will have until Sept. 12 to submit their plans to either process the waste on-site, transfer it away, or some combination of both, a July 11 press release said.

The request for proposal process is in conjunction with Gershman, Brickner, & Bratton Inc. of Fairfax, Va.

“… We can’t necessarily just pick someone and move ahead with a multimillion dollar project without it being an open and transparent process that will show us if there are other equally qualified proposers that would be interested,” Elias said.

Iowa City senior civil engineer Daniel Scott listed the plasma arc technology being considered in Marion as one possible alternative.

Elias said a greenhouse company and the University of Iowa Oakdale power plant have both expressed an interest in harvesting the gas landfills emit.

Elias and Scott both noted Maryland company Fiberight, which proposes to sort Iowa City’s trash and cart all the organic material to an ethanol plant it’s converting in Blairstown, around 25 miles west of Cedar Rapids.

“We expect Fiberight to be one of the main proposers … [It] would be the one that we have had the most discussions with,” Elias said.

By recycling the recyclables and converting the organics into fuel, Fiberight’s process can recover about 75 percent of a city’s trash, company CEO Craig Stuart-Paul said, citing a demonstration plant his firm built in Virginia.

“We have an active project, with financing … so we went out to a variety of folks looking for a waste supplier,” he said, noting that the Blairstown facility will be the company’s first commercial conversion plant.

The UI Biomass Fuel Project will not submit a proposal because Iowa City’s request concerns incoming trash, whereas the UI project wants to pipe the inflammable gas landfills emit to the Oakdale plant, said Ferman Milster, the principal engineer of the UI Biomass Fuel Project.

To date, the project has been unable to strike a deal to construct the pipeline, he said.

“If [Fiberight’s plan] proves up technically and financially, it’s an alternative to burying our waste,” Milster said. “And I think, as we move forward, we need to look for places to put our municipal solid waste other then a hole in the ground. And we bury a lot of energy when we do that … making transportation fuel is a much higher use for that energy then burying it underground.”

The landfill takes in about 400 tons of garbage every day and has an annual operating budget of approximately $7 million, Elias said. It will reach capacity in 20 to 25 years if Iowa City continues its current waste-disposal practices.

“We want to take advantage of the time now because we’re not going to have to be focusing on construction and repairing and dealing with fire-related issues,” he said.

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.