Photo by Mark Washington
Northeast food waste facility approved; neighbors have concerns
A Portland company has won approval to operate a recycling facility in northeast Portland that will turn food waste into electricity, but neighbors have concerns because the last effort at green industry on the Columbia Boulevard site caused a foul odor to drift over neighboring homes.
The Metro council approved a franchise permit last week for Columbia Biogas to operate the plant at 6849 N.E. Columbia Blvd. to recycle food waste from commercial and industrial sources, keep about 200,000 tons of waste out of landfills or the sewer system, and produce enough electricity to power up to 5,000 homes.
Columbia Biogas plans to convert local food waste into renewable power, heat, clean water, fertilizer and soil amendments. The anaerobic digestion operation will be in an industrial-zoned portion of the Cully neighborhood. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2011, and will provide about 85 jobs. Once operational, the facility will employ about 10 full time workers and is expected to create additional waste hauling jobs.
The proposal has the support of the city of Portland. But residents near the site have bad memories of a former recycling facility that operated nearby in the early 1990s. The plant produced a stench that stunk up the neighborhood.
The Cully Neighborhood Association has heard from neighbors who are concerned about the future impacts. The permit agreement will require the company to work with the neighborhood.
Cully Chairwoman Kathy Fuerstenau has also indicated that there may be other issues such as noise from generators and other equipment.
But Columbia Biogas officials say they will operate a plant that is completely unlike the controversial Reidel Municipal Solid Waste Composting facility that closed after a year of complaints. For starters, the new plant will be completely enclosed and designed to keep air inside, with any odors that escape scrubbed with biofilters.
Anaerobic digestion is a controlled and enclosed biologic process that breaks down organic matter in the absence of oxygen and produces methane-rich biogas that can be burned to generate electricity.
The company plans to operate power generating engines that will produce about five megawatts of electricity and to connect to a substation grid in the PacifiCorp system. The digestion process also produces a byproduct that can be used as fertilizer and soil amendments in nurseries and farms.
The facility will be capable of processing about 90,000 tons of solid food waste and 104,000 tons of liquid food waste per year. The material will be processed in tanks in an enclosed building.
Solid food waste will come from local commercial sources such as grocery stores, restaurants and food processors. Liquid food waste will come from commercial grease traps and food and beverage processors. The liquid waste is currently sent down sewers and treated at wastewater plants. No yard debris or garbage will be accepted.
“Columbia Biogas brings an excellent model for how to handle food waste throughout the region,” said Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder. “By eliminating the need to truck waste to landfills we’ll reduce greenhouse gasses, through this process we can power our homes and fertilize our farm fields with food waste instead of burying, and by partnering with the community, we’ll create and maintain good paying jobs for people in their own neighborhoods.”
The Metro Council has called for a 50 cent per ton surcharge on waste brought to the facility to establish a grant program to support community rehabilitation, mitigation and enhancement projects.
The council has also requested that Columbia Biogas create a Good Neighbor Agreement to minimize the impacts of the facility on local residents. Columbia Biogas has also formed an advisory committee with the neighbors, as well as a jobs subcommittee which includes the Native American Youth Association, Verde, Hacienda and Work Systems Inc.