Reason for excitement

Published 7:31 pm Thursday, December 30, 2010

It’s not often when there’s reason to be excited about what’s going on at the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s regional landfill in Suffolk. In fact, nearly every time the landfill has been mentioned in the news during the past few years, the context has been negative — and often unpleasant.

There were SPSA’s many financial problems and the rumblings by Suffolk’s partners in the agency over the fact that Suffolk pays nothing to dump its trash there (despite a decades-old agreement that gave the city free use of the landfill in exchange for hosting it). There was a months-long stretch last year when the normally-nasty odor coming from the site turned especially rancid, causing nearby residents to complain of everything from health problems to unmarketable houses as a result of it. There was even an injured eagle found hobbling around the trash pile at one point.

But news this week of a company that has stepped in to help harvest gases from the landfill and convert them to energy is extremely positive. A new facility at BASF on Wilroy Road will collect gas produced by the landfill’s rotting trash convert it into electricity. That electricity then would be used to power all operations at BASF. Excess electricity — enough to power 3,000 to 4,000 Suffolk homes — would be sold to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.

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The new facility also will take pollutants, including sulfurs and carbon dioxide, out of the air. The gases are generated by rotting trash at the regional landfill, and currently are used in smaller volumes by BASF. The rest is burned off at the landfill, which means the gases escape into the atmosphere.

Officials also say that once construction is complete and the facility is operational, the new process should help reduce the odor issue that residents close to the landfill have been living with recently.

That’s why there’s plenty of reason to be excited about this project, even if it is one that deals with the landfill.