Could Trash and Wastewater Power Local Homes, Vehicles?

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Have you ever thought about the possibility of trash powering your home? Or wastewater fueling the buses your kids ride to school? Mesa County and Grand Junction officials have -- and they say it could be a reality in the near future.

As the Mesa County Landfill has continued to grow, officials say so have the gases the trash gives off -- like methane. As a result, they're set to construct a methane gas collection control system this year to offset emissions.

"With that reality facing us, we've been trying to determine what we could do, maybe beneficially," said Bob Edmiston, Director of Solid Waste Management for Mesa County.

On the other side of town at the Persigo Water Treatment Plant, officials say methane gas that is created during the water treatment process is burned off 24 / 7.

"Currently we're using a small portion of the methane that we produce to heat a few of the buildings," said Dan Tonello, Wastewater Services Manager for Persigo. "But we're wasting the vast majority of it."

And now both locations say they're looking at changing their strategy when it comes to dealing with methane. City and County officials say there's a very real possibility that the trash at the landfill and wastewater at the plant could be used to produce hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of usable energy.

"It's something we're certainly looking at," said Edmiston.

Edmiston says the technology exists to turn methane gas into electricity -- and based on recent studies of the landfill, experts say there's a lot of it to go around.

"We generate the equivalent of one hundred thousand dollars worth of electricity a year," said Edmiston.

Tonello says Persigo is looking at a system that would turn methane into compressed natural gas, that could be used to fuel city and county vehicles and school buses.

"It has the equivalent of about one hundred forty thousand gallons of gasoline on a yearly basis," said Tonello.

While both say the ideas sound very good on paper, it's a different story when it comes to their price tags.

"The capital costs of putting the system in are fairly significant," said Edmiston.

"It's about a four million dollar capital expenditure," said Tonello.

That's why they say they're looking at stimulus dollars, private and public partners, and other funding sources to make the projects a reality. And although things are on hold until then, they say they remain committed to making them happen.

"There's significant interest in the project, it's feasible, it makes sense," said Tonello.

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