Monday, April 06, 2009

Residents raise stink about planned bioenergy plant

A dozen trucks would haul sewage sludge, food waste and restaurant grease into a proposed South Side bioenergy plant every day.A dozen trucks would haul sewage sludge, food waste and restaurant grease into a proposed South Side bioenergy plant every day.
And a draft permit for the facility, which would convert the waste into a burnable gas, would allow for more than 40 tons of air-pollution emissions every year.

But officials with Schmack BioEnergy and partner Kurtz Bros. Inc., each based in the Cleveland area, say the plant, to be built at 2500 Jackson Pike, won't stink.

South Side residents, who already live with a host of industrial smells, say they are wary.

"It seems like every time there's something that has the possibility of creating odor, they stick it in this area," said Teresa Mills, a Grove City resident and leader of the Buckeye Environmental Network.

"If this is going to be such a great facility, why don't they stick it in Worthington?"

The facility would use bacteria to digest 40,000 tons of waste a year to create methane that would be burned to make electricity.

"If we have leaks and we're losing biogas, we're losing our profit," said Bruce Bailey, Schmack's vice president of technical affairs. "There really is an economic incentive for us not to cause odors."

Residents and others can attend a public hearing on Tuesday hosted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The plant has applied for a state permit that would limit air pollution and odors.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Columbus Metropolitan Library branch located at 3540 S. High St.

"The steps they are taking should minimize any odors that come out of the process," said John McGreevy, an air-permits and compliance specialist in the Ohio EPA's Central District office.

Bailey said the plant would use a series of enclosed tanks to process 25,000 tons of sewage sludge and 15,000 tons of food waste and restaurant grease every year.

The gas burned would create as much as 1.5 megawatts of electricity per hour.

The plant's draft permit allows for emissions of as much as 23.8 tons of sulfur dioxide and 20.8 tons of nitrogen oxide each year. Both pollutants contribute to smog and airborne soot.

Kurtz Bros. opened a similar plant in Akron a year ago.

Officials with the Akron Regional Air Quality Management District said they have not received any complaints.

Mills and other advocates say there already is enough pollution created by South Side industries, including the city's Jackson Pike sewage-treatment plant, the Sanimax rendering plant, the Columbus Steel Castings foundry and a Groveport composting facility run by Kurtz Bros.

Those sites have been the subject of odor complaints in recent years. Ohio EPA officials have logged 32 complaints about the foundry since January 2008, and three complaints about the rendering plant.

There were no complaints about the composting facility last year.

Moira Bulloch, spokeswoman for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an advocacy group based in Falls Church, Va., said states need to look at the bigger picture.

"Regulatory agencies focus too narrowly on the harm that a single facility will do, rather than looking at the synergistic effect of all pollution sources in the area," Bulloch said. "It just gets worse and worse in these communities."

Bailey said the plant would process wastes in sealed rooms and that filters will eliminate odors. McGreevy said the plant won't store wastes outside the building.

It makes sense to locate the digester at 2500 Jackson Pike, Bailey said, because it's close to the city's sewage-treatment plant.

"You don't want to truck (the sludge) too far away from where it's generated," he said.

It's the trucks that have Clyde Miller, a homeowner and a member of the Southwest Area Commission, concerned.

"With the unloading of the trucks, you're still going to have odors," Miller said. "I just don't see that we need more smells down there."And a draft permit for the facility, which would convert the waste into a burnable gas, would allow for more than 40 tons of air-pollution emissions every year.

But officials with Schmack BioEnergy and partner Kurtz Bros. Inc., each based in the Cleveland area, say the plant, to be built at 2500 Jackson Pike, won't stink.

South Side residents, who already live with a host of industrial smells, say they are wary.

"It seems like every time there's something that has the possibility of creating odor, they stick it in this area," said Teresa Mills, a Grove City resident and leader of the Buckeye Environmental Network.

"If this is going to be such a great facility, why don't they stick it in Worthington?"

The facility would use bacteria to digest 40,000 tons of waste a year to create methane that would be burned to make electricity.

"If we have leaks and we're losing biogas, we're losing our profit," said Bruce Bailey, Schmack's vice president of technical affairs. "There really is an economic incentive for us not to cause odors."

Residents and others can attend a public hearing on Tuesday hosted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The plant has applied for a state permit that would limit air pollution and odors.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Columbus Metropolitan Library branch located at 3540 S. High St.

"The steps they are taking should minimize any odors that come out of the process," said John McGreevy, an air-permits and compliance specialist in the Ohio EPA's Central District office.

Bailey said the plant would use a series of enclosed tanks to process 25,000 tons of sewage sludge and 15,000 tons of food waste and restaurant grease every year.

The gas burned would create as much as 1.5 megawatts of electricity per hour.

The plant's draft permit allows for emissions of as much as 23.8 tons of sulfur dioxide and 20.8 tons of nitrogen oxide each year. Both pollutants contribute to smog and airborne soot.

Kurtz Bros. opened a similar plant in Akron a year ago.

Officials with the Akron Regional Air Quality Management District said they have not received any complaints.

Mills and other advocates say there already is enough pollution created by South Side industries, including the city's Jackson Pike sewage-treatment plant, the Sanimax rendering plant, the Columbus Steel Castings foundry and a Groveport composting facility run by Kurtz Bros.

Those sites have been the subject of odor complaints in recent years. Ohio EPA officials have logged 32 complaints about the foundry since January 2008, and three complaints about the rendering plant.

There were no complaints about the composting facility last year.

Moira Bulloch, spokeswoman for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an advocacy group based in Falls Church, Va., said states need to look at the bigger picture.

"Regulatory agencies focus too narrowly on the harm that a single facility will do, rather than looking at the synergistic effect of all pollution sources in the area," Bulloch said. "It just gets worse and worse in these communities."

Bailey said the plant would process wastes in sealed rooms and that filters will eliminate odors. McGreevy said the plant won't store wastes outside the building.

It makes sense to locate the digester at 2500 Jackson Pike, Bailey said, because it's close to the city's sewage-treatment plant.

"You don't want to truck (the sludge) too far away from where it's generated," he said.

It's the trucks that have Clyde Miller, a homeowner and a member of the Southwest Area Commission, concerned.

"With the unloading of the trucks, you're still going to have odors," Miller said. "I just don't see that we need more smells down there."

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