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Biomass waste disposal project proposed in northwest (2/02)

By Michael Lynch A CTV W-5 television program six years ago changed Roger Dolyny's life.

By Michael Lynch

A CTV W-5 television program six years ago changed Roger Dolyny's life. The program examined how a Detroit suburb effectively handled waste with minimal environmental impact, compared to how Canadian municipalities handle it.

After viewing the program, Dolyny, a long-time Fort Frances general contractor, launched an eight-month personal study on waste handling. Dolyny is now a consultant to the Township of Emo, which is looking for a "proven" waste-handling system.

Dolyny quickly became a disciple of the way waste is handled at Riverview, Mich., where waste is dumped into five- or six-acre plots called cells, and the methane gas is kept from seeping into the environment. These cells have 10-foot clay walls that have thick plastic liners, and a bed of piping is laid in the cell for the extraction of methane gas, Dolyny says.

The entire cell is covered with a four-inch thick material. The cover is partially removed during the day for the dumping of waste and at the end of the day the cover is replaced, trapping the methane gas that is eventually extracted, cleaned and sold. When the site is full, it is sealed.

Gary Judson, an Emo councillor who chairs the township’s biomass waste recovery committee, says "the township is looking for a proven successful method of handling waste."

"We’re in the second phase of a three-phase project," Judson says. The first phase was the investigation of options.

The second phase is to gain government assistance, through funding, to conduct a full-scale operational analysis that will include water and soil testing, a complete environmental impact study and an economic sizing study with operational cost projections for a biomass waste disposal and recovery operation.

Judson says the township has applied for FedNor funding to pay for the second phase.

The Emo project has garnered interest from other townships in the area as well, adds Judson.

In early November 2001 representatives from Emo, three other townships and the Rainy River First Nation visited Riverview, Mich. for a "first-hand look" at the waste-recovery system.

If the township proceeds with the development of a system similar to the one at Riverview, it would need to import waste from the surrounding area, including the possibility of importing waste from the United States. Nearby International Falls ships its waste 185 miles to North Dakota.

Dolyny says Emo has many attributes that make it attractive for the establishment of a biomass waste disposal and recovery operation, including the fact it is geophysically suited for such an operation.

"(The land) has a clay base, it is in close proximity to the United States and it has rail lines," Dolyny says.

Dolyny says establishing a biomass operation is a long-term project.

"It takes anywhere from four to six years to recover methane gas," he says.

During his study Dolyny learned that the "standard Canadian dump is spewing uncontrolled amounts of methane into the atmosphere which, is a leading contributor to the growing problem of greenhouse gas pollution," Dolyny says.

Through his study, Dolyny also learned that all over Canada "poisonous contaminants from open dumps (open to the atmosphere) are leaching into water tables.

"If you ask the average Canadian about our environment, he or she will tell you how pristine it is compared to the environment in the United States," Dolyny says.

This is not the case, says Dolyny, pointing out the banning of open dumps by the Americans in 1991.

Dolyny says landfill sites in Canada are not only damaging to the environment, but are an "eyesore" compared to those in the United States.

"At Riverview, Mich. they have $1-million homes within 400 feet of the biomass waste disposal and recovery system. An 18-hole golf course has been built on top of another former disposal/ recovery site," he says.

"At the Riverview site there are no rats, there is no smell and it's esthetically pleasing," Dolyny says.