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Full steam ahead for incinerator

Although state funding for Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management's (PDSWM) incinerator project fell through, the project is still moving forward.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the new third combustor took place last Thursday at the waste-to-energy facility along Jefferson Street in Alexandria.

Pete Olmscheid, executive director of the facility, noted that the actual groundbreaking is expected to take place the first week in May and that currently, preliminary work is being done.

He said some of the existing equipment, such as fans and blowers, that run the two current combustors - units one and two - are being relocated to make room for the third unit.

Olmscheid also talked about the funding for the $20 million project.

PDSWM was supposed to receive $5 million through the state's bonding process, but Olmscheid said the county's local representatives were not able to secure the money for the project.

"If they would have voted for it during the third round, we would have gotten the money," he said. "But they didn't."

He said that the project did receive one federal grant worth $927,000.

The project will now be paid for by tipping fees and steam sales, said Olmscheid, along with outside waste pick-up from other counties.

"We could have lowered the tipping fees if we had received the bonding money," he said.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of April next year, which is when testing on the third combustor will begin. By the 1st of June 2011, it should be up and running, said Olmscheid.

During the construction period, the current waste-to-energy facility, recycling center and household hazardous waste drop-off center will be operating normally.

However, Olmscheid encourages residents who are interested in the confidential document destruction service to call in advance before dropping off any documents.

The facility is hoping to limit this service, which is free to private citizens, to one Friday per month. The service is available to businesses, but there is a fee.

Check out these facts

The PDSWM combustors were constructed in 1986 and the facility began to accept solid waste in 1987. A recycling program was adopted in 1988 and the Household Hazardous Waste drop-off and reuse center opened in 1993.

The recycling drop center was opened in 1997.

In 2003, the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) was constructed to remove more recyclable material from the waste stream and reduce emissions by removing problem material.

Currently, the existing plant can handle up to 120 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day - two units each are capable of 60 tons of MSW per day.

The new combustor will be big enough to handle 120 tons of MSW per day by itself, which would double the facility's current load.

The expansion will satisfy the needs of PDSWM for the next 20 to 25 years - until 2030 to 2035. The expansion will add approximately 10 employees.

Currently, steam produced at the facility is used at 3M and Douglas County Hospital. Excess steam is used to generate up to 500 kilowatts of electricity.

With the expansion, the additional steam will be purchased by existing customers, as well as new customers, including Alexandria Technical College.

Air pollution control technologies in the current two combustors reduce air emissions well below applicable regulations and the third combustor will have air pollution control technologies identical to the current combustors.

The expansion will reduce MSW sent to landfills, as well as help to fulfill Minnesota's renewable energy objectives.