Counties, cities support regional waste burner
Though it's not a burning need yet, several local counties and cities are looking at better ways to get rid of trash. A group of area counties and cities showed early support for a regional incinerator at a meeting Thursday in Moorhead. "I think ...
Though it's not a burning need yet, several local counties and cities are looking at better ways to get rid of trash.
A group of area counties and cities showed early support for a regional incinerator at a meeting Thursday in Moorhead.
"I think the need is clear," said Moorhead Councilwoman Nancy Otto. "Now is the time."
Representatives from Clay, Cass, Becker, Wilkin, Otter Tail and Hubbard counties, as well as the cities of Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, attended the meeting.
The areas combined produce more than a quarter million tons of municipal solid waste annually, according to county and city officials.
All that garbage has to go somewhere, and local landfills are filling up. That's why an incinerator makes sense for the future, said Cass County Commissioner Vern Bennett.
"It's going to be a plus for the environment. It's going to be a plus for the ground water. It's going to be a plus for public policy," he said.
Basically, the facility would work like this:
Garbage collected around the region would be hauled to a central location. Recyclable material would be sorted out, and the rest would be burnt.
Energy produced by burning trash would create steam or electricity to sell to an industrial user. Material left over and ashes would be stored in a landfill on site or trucked to one elsewhere.
Several Minnesota cities have similar plants, including Fosston, Perham, Fergus Falls and Alexandria.
Officials say it's too early to know how much a local burner would cost or where it might be built.
For the counties and cities present Thursday, the clock is ticking at differing speeds.
Landfills in Fargo, Clay County and Gwinner, N.D., which takes West Fargo's and Hubbard County's garbage, are expected to last for more than a decade.
But officials in Otter Tail County will be looking for a place to dump extra trash when the incinerator in Fergus Falls closes in February, as expected, said Mike Hanan, the county's solid waste chief.
Otter Tail County takes more than half of the 30,000 tons of trash it produces each year to the Fergus Falls burner. The rest goes to a burner in Perham, but it is not large enough - even if it expands - to take on the extra garbage, he said.
"This meeting is real timely for us," Hanan said.
A local incinerator is not a new idea. Clay County Administrator Vijay Sethi said it was studied in the late 1980s.
Talks were abandoned after the only local companies large enough to use the steam produced - American Crystal Sugar Co. and Busch Agricultural Resources - said they weren't interested.
"I think they were really fearful of the stigma" of using power produced by garbage, said Kevin Campbell, a commissioner in Clay County.
Having an industrial user on board is essential because it defrays the cost of an incineration plant, Sethi said.
Getting as many counties and cities involved as possible is also important, said Dan Holm, solid waste director in Becker County.
"We don't generate enough waste to make it economically feasible ourselves," he said.
The group plans to meet again later this summer after figuring out how much each county and city now pays for garbage disposal.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535