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Regional landfill alternatives discussed

As the search for alternative methods of disposing of trash at the regional landfill begins, so have efforts to prevent some of those methods from coming to the landfill in Stafford County.

About a dozen people turned out at St. George’s Episcopal Church on Friday to hear some of the same representatives who successfully pushed against a proposal to bring a $73 million waste-to-energy facility to the landfill last year.

Nearly a year after that proposal was dropped, the board that governs the landfill has started up the process to find alternative methods again.

A request for proposals for the project has been posted on Stafford’s website. The bid is set to close Aug. 5.

The bid lists pyrolysis, gasification, recycling and anaerobic digestion as some of the waste processing methods that are eligible. Keith Dayton, the landfill director, has said that the range of proposals could be wide.

Some citizens are hoping that pyrolysis, the process that was previously proposed at the facility that would have converted trash and tires into energy, will not be one of them.

“We are trying to keep the heat on so that this RFP [request for proposals] does not result in an incinerator,” said Bill Johnson, who fought against that proposal last year.

Mike Ewall with the Energy Justice Network, a Washington-based organization that supports grass-roots efforts against what they consider polluting industries, said that a pyrolysis plant is classified as an incinerator.

“Pyrolysis is a failed technology,” Ewall said, naming off a list of health effects that incinerators can have. “That’s what they want to make you think, that you can put bad things in and good things come out. And that’s just not possible.”

So the group looked at methods that they would be prepared to support.

“You’re arguing against a real bad thing, so you can fight it, but you also need to show what you want,” said Neil Seldman, president of the Institute of Self-Reliance, a national organization that does research and gives technical assistance to communities on sustainability.

Seldman added that Urban Ore, a private facility in Berkeley that resells most of the waste it handles, is the type of facility that citizens should be looking for.

“Reuse is it,” Seldman said.

The CEO and operations manager of Urban Ore described its process to the group on Friday. The facility processes between 7,000 and 8,000 tons of waste per year, 98 percent of which is resold to the public. Two percent, according to CEO Dan Knapp, goes to the landfill. The facility is the only one in the United States that Urban Ore operates, but Knapp is hoping to expand.

“We are dealing entirely with things that people have discarded,” Knapp said.

The facility employs 38 people and saves Berkeley about $100,000 per year, according to Knapp.

“The wasters want your supply of resources, and they want you to sign a 30-year contract. We think it is in your interest to let our industry have a shot,” said Mary Lou Van Deventer, Knapp’s wife and Urban Ore operations manager.

Knapp said Urban Ore no longer responds to requests for proposals after being disappointed many times, but was prepared to offer citizens support as the bidding process continues.

“They usually have their minds made up when they put out for bid. They pick our brains and then give our ideas to them [the winning bidder],” Van Deventer said.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975