October 13, 2008
No Joy in Landfill-Ville
Reading the BDN's recent article on the Pine Tree Landfill, one would think residents are now joyful to have such a wonderful neighbor in our town.
What the article doesn't mention about the landfill gas-to- energy plant is that by generating electricity, landfill gases and odors are escaping at a higher rate than before when the gases were flared; to quote Tom Gilbert, PTL's environmental compliance manager from an article in last February's BDN, when the landfill's stench was in full force: "Before the plant was on site, officials could vacuum gases from the landfill at a higher rate to reduce odor ... Landfill staff cannot pull odorous gases from the landfill as aggressively as they once did when it became an issue, because they must monitor it more closely to ensure electricity production."
PTL can't vacuum at same rate in its gas collection system because it needs to damp down vacuum pressure to prevent oxygen from being drawn in. The gas-to-energy plant depends upon an oxygen- starved environment. PTL also has an incentive to optimize generation of methane with a plant to feed.
Methane is a greenhouse gas, more potent than CO2 as a cause of global warming. Landfills are the largest man-made source of methane released in North America, so looking at landfills as a benevolent source of energy is erroneous. We would be much better off with fewer landfills and less waste going into them.
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