MEDINA — The county is considering contracting with a private firm to install a more environmentally friendly waste water management system that could save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
In order to capitalize on most of the savings, the county would have to take some quick action.
Representatives from Wooster-based Quasar Energy Group spoke to county commissioners Monday about an estimated $3 million anaerobic digester system that potentially could be built at the county’s Liverpool Township waste water treatment plant. Under the proposed plan, Quasar would build and own the system and the county would see a guaranteed cost savings to treat waste water.
If the project is started by the end of this year, Quasar would be eligible for a stimulus grant that would cover 30 percent of the project’s cost.
Quasar is asking the county to put $50,000 up to help fund a $100,000 feasibility study that could be completed by the end of the month. If it shows positive projections and the county signs a contract with Quasar, then the company will spend at least 5 percent of the project’s cost by the end of the year to get it off the ground.
Commissioners expressed interest and some hesitation Monday.
“It always scares me a little bit when you’re put under pressure to make a decision in like 30 days,” Commissioner Pat Geissman said. She asked if the $50,000 commitment from the county was necessary.
Quasar officials said the money is needed to ensure commitment from the county. “If you want us to think about it, you really need to put down some capital,” Quasar President Mel Kurtz said.
“The downside is $50,000. The upside is really big,” he said, referring to an estimated $500,000 in annual savings.
The county uses a 30-year-old low-pressure oxidation system.
“In laymen’s terms, it’s a pressure cooker,” Sanitary Engineer Jim Troike said. Waste water is run through tanks, where hot water kills bacteria and sterilizes sludge. Whatever’s left over is hauled away to be applied to farmland as fertilizer.
“It’s a pretty expensive process,” Troike explained. It costs about $800,000 to heat the water in the system.
He noted that while the system still works, it regularly needs repairs and eventually will need to be replaced.
“This is sooner than we wanted to (replace it), but it just looks like a big opportunity,” Troike said. The county spends $600,000 on natural gas and electric to run the system annually.
The anaerobic digesters use an oxygen-free tank and bacteria that digest sludge. The bacteria produce a methane gas that can be collected to run generators to power the Liverpool plant.
“Right now you use energy to burn energy,” said Steven Smith, chief financial officer for Quasar. “This would take it and completely reverse it.”
Quasar would sell the electricity produced by the generators to the county at a discounted rate. The county would not be the only one sending waste to the anaerobic digesters. Quasar also would work with local businesses that produce large amounts of food waste, like grocers and food manufacturers.
Smith said the digesters can process waste cheaper than other disposal methods.
Commissioners likely will decide Monday whether to approve the feasibility study. If they do, Quasar will look at the operations of the plant to ensure the anaerobic digesters would work there.
If the county and Quasar decide to go ahead with the project, several details would need to be worked out by the end of the year. For example, they would have to settle on a “tipping fee” that’s fair to both sides.
Quasar would recoup much of its money spent building the facility on the tipping fee it charges the county to process the sludge.
If a deal is reached between the two, the system would be complete by September 2011.
Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.