Thursday, February 5, 2015

MRC Meeting on Fiberight Plant

Bill Lippincott's Summary of the MRC Meeting regarding the proposed Fiberight waste facility:

I went to the MRC meeting in Orono yesterday reported in Thursday's BDN.    William Shakespeare was also there.  Fiberight's presentation and the University of Maine's analysis were impressive.  But we both had some questions.  William Shakespeare asked about odors. Craig Stuart-Paul, the CEO of Fiberight said the only possible odors would be at the front end, where trash trucks were unloading but they would have a system to capture and contain the odor to within the plant.
I asked about air emissions; I had been told there would be no air emissions from the Fiberight plant. The biofuel that is the result of their anaerobic digester process is methane.  Hemant Pendse from University of Maine  mentioned the possibility of some methane gas escaping from the plant, if all is not collected by their systems in the plant.

Fiberight may also decide to burn or gasify unhydrolyzed biomass, a byproduct of their process, as fuel at the plant, in which case I presume there would be smokestacks.  Pendse said that the biomass, having been pasteurized and processed, would be unlike other material burned at other plants in terms of toxicity or smell.
Pendse said the plant was considering taking pulp paper sludge, as well as MSW, for the anaerobic digester, and that was a suitable material for that process.
I asked what would happen if the state aggressively collected food waste from large scale producers, restaurants, cafeterias, supermarkets, etc, diverting it from MSW.  If so, would their plant still be viable?

Pendse said that even if the state succeeds in collecting food waste from large scale producers , it's likely a lot of household food waste will still get into MSW. The explanation I heard this morning on the live stream from the Natural Resources Committee was that because Maine is a mostly rural state – most houses have septic systems rather than feeding into sewer systems - more food is going into garbage bags, instead of garbage disposals.  It strikes me that more aggressive programs by the state for people to compost in their backyards would be suitable for Maine's rural areas. Stuart-Paul said Fiberight could also take the separated food waste from large producers- they would compete in that market,  and could put it into their anaerobic digesters and create fuel.
Pendse and Stuart-Paul sounded quite confident about the whole process and the MRC is going forward but there are still many unknowns.  Residents from Main Trail, located approximately 2000 yards south of the proposed facility are very concerned about odors, truck traffic, property values and what this plant represents for Hampden as a place to live and do business in, and have been meeting to discuss what to do.

We will continue to investigate.