December 6, 2004

Scientists Test Organic Waste Technology

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) -- Lycoming County officials and scientists are testing technology they hope will turn organic waste into profitable byproducts.

One of the technologies, a metal tank called a Drygester, is designed to break down organic waste anaerobically - without oxygen. Manufactured by Young Industries in Muncy, it is one of six systems Bucknell and Vanderbilt University researchers are testing in conjunction with county engineer Michael D. Hnatin.

The tests will determine which system will be used in the landfill's pilot program. The plant would biodegrade up to 30 tons of municipal solid waste per day that previously would have been buried in the landfill.

Byproducts would include methane gas, usable for fuel, and a type of fertilizer.

Hnatin said the process is similar to what occurs naturally in the landfill as organic material decomposes deep within the mounds of garbage. However, the natural process requires 20 to 30 years; a Drygester-type system should take about 20 to 30 days.

The landfill plans to submit a permit application for the pilot plant to the state Department of Environmental Protection by April, Hnatin said. It will cost the landfill roughly $3 million to $5 million to build the pilot plant, he said.

The Drygester prototype processes only 15 pounds of waste daily but the digestion tank planned for the pilot plant could process up to 30 tons a day, Hnatin said.

Officials estimate the county's landfill will be full and will have to close by mid-2011. Anaerobic processing would increase the its life as much as 10 percent by reducing the amount of waste buried there, Hnatin said.

The project is part of the county commissioners' Green Technology Initiatives.


Information from: Williamsport Sun-Gazette, http://www.sungazette.com