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Incinerator project picks up steam

Pope Douglas Solid Waste

The light at the end of the tunnel is finally shining for a project that has been in the works for the past couple of years.

The project - the expansion of the Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management (PDSWM) facility - has finally put a smile on the face of executive director Pete Olmscheid.

"Everyone wishes it would have gone faster, but I am pleased with how it's progressing along nicely," said Olmscheid. "I firmly believe this is a good project. We are trying to do what's best for our communities."

Because Pope and Douglas counties were growing to the point where the Waste-to-Energy Facility couldn't handle all of the garbage, PDSWM started planning to expand its facility by adding a third waste combustor.

The additional combustor, said Olmscheid, should satisfy the needs of Pope and Douglas counties until the years 2030 to 2035.

Olmscheid said there are several reasons for wanting the new combustor built and running by the year 2010, including:

•PDSWM would outgrow its own capacity by the year 2015.

•3M, which buys steam from PDSWM, has completed a large expansion and needs more steam for its manufacturing process.

•Douglas County Hospital, which also gets steam from the plant, is in the process of expanding and will also need more steam.

•The Alexandria Technical College (ATC) is in the process of purchasing steam from PDSWM. Olmscheid said he hopes to have a contract in place sometime this summer with the college.

•PDSWM plans to go from serving a two-county area to a seven-county area, thus becoming a regional facility.

Energy at the facility is produced in the form of steam and electricity, which is used by both 3M and Douglas County Hospital, and soon, ATC. In addition to the steam production, electricity is produced and is currently used in house at the facility.

Olmscheid said that after the expansion is up and running, it is possible PDSWM will have excess electricity to sell to the grid.

He also explained that all of the energy at the facility is considered green renewable energy in Minnesota and that the energy generated from the trash will help Minnesota fulfill its 25 percent renewable by 2025 commitment.

In addition, it can help curb the use of foreign oil, said Olmscheid, by generating energy from trash for steam customers. He said that one ton of trash has the same energy content as one barrel of oil.

As for the expansion project, Olmscheid said the engineering portion of the project is about 95 percent complete and that currently, he is working on air quality permits.

A public review period about the expansion's air emissions is under way through April 18. Comments can be sent to Olmscheid at 2115 South Jefferson, Alexandria, MN 56308.

Olmscheid expects to break ground on the estimated $18.5 million project sometime in August. In March of 2010, test burns should begin to take place, he added, with the expanded portion of the building up and running by the end of 2010.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will provide the permits, said Olmscheid, noting that MPCA representatives will be on site during the testing process.

The environmental permitting is a major hurdle for PDSWM, Olmscheid said, noting that he is currently working through the permitting process. With the permitting comes a lengthy paperwork process, he added.

Funding for the project will come in the form of bonds from both Pope and Douglas counties. In addition, Olmscheid stressed that funding is not coming in the form of taxes, but rather revenues from the facility, such as steam sales, tipping fees and recycle commodity sales.

Other funding options include grants, which Olmscheid has applied for. He noted, however, that it takes "a lot of manpower" to write grants.

One grant that has been applied for and will be received is a $951,000 grant from the Department of Energy Appropriations Bill, which was secured with help from Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Collin Peterson.


1988: In the first year, 17,202 tons of waste were processed and 31,671 tons of waste were processed in 2007. Total tons of waste processed during 20 years of operation is 476,009 tons.

1989: Implemented the curbside recycling program and the satellite collection sites in Pope and Douglas counties.

1993: Opened the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) drop off and reuse center. In 1993, 441 residents dropped items off at the HHW center and 384 residents picked item ups. In 2007, 2,065 residents dropped items off at the HHW Center and 1,863 people picked items up.

1994: Constructed an ash mono-fill/landfill.

1997: The Recycling Drop Center was opened at the Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management Facility. In addition, the combustors, boilers and air pollution control equipment were replaced as required to meet new Environmental Protection Agency standards.

2003: The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) was constructed to remove more recyclable materials from the waste stream. From 2004 through 2008, the MRF processed 122,700 tons of municipal solid waste, removing an additional 8,352 tons - or 7 percent - of recyclable materials.

Present: Currently, the plant has a capacity of 80 tons per day. In the proposed expanded plant, the capacity will be 240 tons per day.