Private party backs incinerator

February 12, 2003 11:00 pm

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

An unnamed private party is interested in purchasing and operating a waste-to-energy incinerator in Del Norte County.

"We have a private party that is interested in the facility, but we're not allowed to divulge who it is at this time," said Naanovo President and CEO J. Thomas Morrow. "I can say they do have an interest in the local community."

At the request of Crescent City City Councilman Herb Kolodner, the design and development firm has been researching the feasibility of an incinerator in the county.

"We often find we have to deal with misinformation from people who are in opposition to the facility," Morrow said yesterday. "We thought more information would have been disseminated to the public before we were invited to come in."

Morrow and fellow executives Richard Brant, executive vice president, and G. Ben Dickson, director, have given presentations to the Crescent City City Council and the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors within the past two weeks.

Although an overview of technology supporting the incinerator is given during the presentations, many specifics, including financing, are not. Morrow said yesterday his firm will not seek public funding for the $18 million incinerator.

"The way we are looking at it is to build, operate and then transfer it to a private interest within a year. During that year we can prove that it performs like it's supposed to," said Morrow. "A private company can go to the bond market and float a bond. We haven't asked any municipality for bond backing."

A major feasibility question for Naanovo executives is finding 180 tons of waste per day to fuel the incinerator, which they claim is the minimum amount needed for an efficient facility.

Depending on the source, various local officials and staff have estimated Del Norte County's waste production as anywhere between 17 tons per day with recyclables removed, to 100 tons per day with recyclables included. Even the high estimate falls short.

"We believe it is closer to 100 tons per day. And according to Herb (Kolodner), there is plenty more feedstock available in the general area," said Morrow. Kolodner has said publicly there are neighboring municipalities interested in trucking garbage to the incinerator, but he said he cannot reveal who they are yet.

When asked how the community would benefit financially if a private company owns and operates the facility, Morrow said there are several ways. One would be to offset trash disposal costs.

"If it costs $48 per ton for shipping and tipping fees to truck waste to White City (disposal site); how can those costs be reduced?" said Morrow. "So if the trash bill will go up when the landfill closes, shipping costs can be reduced by incineration in our plant."

Dickson added, "The $48 per ton is part of the information given to us by a third party. We'll have to check the actual numbers out ourselves."

The executives also suggested that removing and incinerating garbage already deposited at the landfill might be financially and environmentally friendly.

Mining landfills is done in the United States, but experts say serious environmental problems can be encountered in that process, depending on the contents of the landfill and the weather.

Morrow stressed that his firm is environmentally friendly. "We think of ourselves as a green company – not green as being inexperienced but environmentally sensitive. We understand the concerns of environmentalists and we share the same concerns."

When asked if the incinerator would create hazardous waste that is difficult to dispose of, Dickson said no.

"Fly ash, when we're through with it, is benign. It's suitable for a waste disposal site," Dickson said of the more questionable byproduct. According to Naanovo's presentation, the incinerator produces only two waste products; bottom ash and fly ash. Bottom ash is considered non-hazardous and not treated. Fly ash is treated before it is disposed of.

Morrow said the incinerator can accept hazardous materials, such as television sets and computer CRTs, and reduce them to non-hazardous ash. Those items are now expensive to dispose of.

Two items they said should be removed before incineration are car batteries, which are primarily acid and lead and steel. Dickson said steel uses more energy to incinerate than it produces.

When asked why the plant would work in such an isolated community, Morrow said that shouldn't matter.

"That depends on the amount of waste generated, if the numbers are there and Herb said they are. Of course, that is something we are looking into," said Morrow. "We're really just getting started in the United States."

Dickson said his company wants to get a vote of approval from the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority today during its regular meeting. The Crescent City City Council voted to approve of Naanovo's continued research on the project on Feb. 3.

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors avoided voting on the project Tuesday.

"We're hoping for a positive vote ... I realize we didn't get that from the supervisors but they wanted to assess the information we provided," said Dickson. "If we get an approval to move forward, the next thing we will do is bring in our experts to assess the amount and content of trash in the area. And how much of that is residential versus commercial. If other parties will be supplying it, then that will have to be assessed too."

If they don't get a vote of approval?

"That wouldn't mean we are walking away from it," said Dickson. "We would have to assess that situation and see what our options would be."

Dickson said he estimated it would take 30 to 45 days for Naanovo staff to reach a conclusion about building an incinerator in Del Norte County.

"The reason that we came in and asked for feedback from government agencies is because we don't want to spend a lot of time and money here if there is no interest in it," said Morrow.

Morrow said his company will be travelling to the Caribbean later this month and speaking to some governments there that have expressed interest in building an incinerator, including the Dutch Antilles.