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NC municipality plans to refurbish idled WtE facility

By Matt Soberg | September 20, 2011

Despite prior financial difficulties, political controversy and being idle since spring 2011, plans are in the works to refurbish and operate the New Hanover County Waste to Energy Conversion Facility (WASTEC) in Wilmington, N.C., with requests for proposals issued in October. The Department of Environmental Management handles waste disposal for New Hanover County and includes recycling, landfill and waste-to-energy (WtE) systems.

The county is searching for a partner with the necessary technology and service capabilities to make the system operational. “We are in the process of writing requests for proposals and hope to have a company on board in late spring 2012 with a plan to refurbish and operate the plant,” said John Hubbard, the director of the New Hanover County Department of Environmental Management.

Financial difficulties resulted in necessary support from the county’s general fund, and because the WASTEC was unable to be self-sustainable, the county decided to stop the financial bleeding. The facility went idle in April with approximately 40 jobs lost.

The WASTEC was the first WtE plant in North Carolina and began operation in 1984. The plant was also one of the first in the nation to apply cogeneration technology, generating both steam and electricity, according to New Hanover County. 

The WASTEC utilizes municipal solid waste and is considered a mass burn combustion facility with no special preparation given to the waste stream before combustion. The system has a 500 ton-per-day capacity that includes two original 100 ton-per-day boilers along with a 300 ton-per-day boiler added in 1991 pursuant to a $27 million bond for expansion. The plant processes approximately 140,000 tons of feedstock per year. 

When operational, the system produces steam to turn two electrical generators and has a 10.5 megawatt capacity. Pollution is controlled through high-tech equipment consisting of scrubbers, filter baghouses, emission monitoring systems and other pollution controls.  

The combustion results in 85 percent waste reduction for the county. “To illustrate the amount of reduction achieved by WASTEC, for every 100 trucks of trash that dispose trash at WASTEC, only 15 trucks of ash are carted to the landfill,” according to New Hanover County. 

 

3 Responses

  1. William Blackley, MD

    2011-09-21

    1

    The point about reduction in waste neglects to mention the tons of toxic emissions created by burning trash that are blown into the air from the smokestack and subsequently breathed by citizens. The citizen's lungs then become a landfill for toxins and this causes an increased risk for asthma, chronic bronchitis, stroke, heart disease, premature birth, cancer and much more. I suggest all citizen of Wilmington read this report about burning biomass. http://www.wiregrass-ace.org/linked/second-opinion.pdf Burning municipal waste has the added problem of creating nanoparticles that penetrate lung tissue and blood vessels setting up chronic inflammation leading to serious health problems. The real solution to municipal waste is to focus on reducing the sources of waste and implementing a zero waste program that increases jobs in the community and reuses material thus saving energy and reducing greenhouse gasses. Biomass can be composted and reused. Some cities are already recycling 75% of their waste. Why not Wilmington? Sincerely, William Blackley, MD Fellow American Academy of Family Practice.

  2. William Blackley, MD

    2011-09-21

    2

    The point about reduction in waste neglects to mention the tons of toxic emissions created by burning trash that are blown into the air from the smokestack and subsequently breathed by citizens. The citizen's lungs then become a landfill for toxins and this causes an increased risk for asthma, chronic bronchitis, stroke, heart disease, premature birth, cancer and much more. I suggest all citizen of Wilmington read this report about burning biomass. http://www.wiregrass-ace.org/linked/second-opinion.pdf Burning municipal waste has the added problem of creating nanoparticles that penetrate lung tissue and blood vessels setting up chronic inflammation leading to serious health problems. The real solution to municipal waste is to focus on reducing the sources of waste and implementing a zero waste program that increases jobs in the community and reuses material thus saving energy and reducing greenhouse gasses. Biomass can be composted and reused. Some cities are already recycling 75% of their waste. Why not Wilmington? Sincerely, William Blackley, MD Fellow American Academy of Family Practice.

  3. apritcha

    2011-09-21

    3

    I agree with Dr. Blackley that a waste-to-energy facility is not an ideal solution, but what would be a better solution for the immediate future? WTE produces the same pollutants as natural gas and coal: mostly CO2. Other pollutants such as NOx, SO2, and particulates are carefully removed, as mandated by the EPA. Landfilling the garbage creates methane which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Until people stop creating so much waste and using so much electricity, we are left with limited options.

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