Originally created 02/11/06

Landfill wants project to grow



AIKEN - One person's trash could become another man's fuel at Three Rivers Solid Waste Authority.

The 1,200-acre landfill near Savannah River Site has technology that grinds up trash of all kinds, weeds out metals and unwanted solid debris, and leaves behind ground-up bio-mass called "processed engineered fuel," General Manager Colin Covington said Friday after a news conference to discuss possible upgrades.

The bio-fuel can burn alongside coal, cutting down on fossil fuel consumption. The landfill sits on land owned by the Department of Energy and sold in small quantities to the federal agency.

But the authority wants to spend $3.8 million to increase production from 30 to 50 tons per day to 10 times that amount, Mr. Covington said during a telephone interview.

The real goal is to attract a private investor that would use the processed engineered fuel to make ethanol gas, he said.

"What we're interested in is the next generation," Mr. Covington said.

Under its agreement with the DOE, the authority must dedicate $1 per every ton of trash it brings in toward technology research. The landfill serves nine surrounding counties and brings in about 250,000 tons per year.

It will take years at that rate to raise the money needed to expand the authority's conversion equipment. To quicken the pace, its board of directors has reached out to U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C., who reportedly is trying to get funding for the project.

Calls to his spokeswoman were not immediately returned Friday.

The landfill's board is excited that the time might be right for the project, given President Bush's endorsement of alternative fuel research in his State of the Union speech.

Industry analysts said years ago that ethanol gas would be a smart investment once oil prices exceeded $40 a barrel, Mr. Covington said. "Well, we've been over $40 for a long time," he said, referring to oil prices that have exceeded $60 a barrel.

Mike Campbell, the son of former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell and a candidate for lieutenant governor, also attended the news conference held near Jackson.

Mr. Campbell, who said he's been interested in the technology for more than a year, said that the proposal was good for the state and that the technology could be implemented at other landfills across South Carolina.

"It has all the components of what's good for the state," he said in a telephone interview after the news conference.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.