Government and Sustainability

Grand Rapids plans $30M biodigester

February 3, 2017
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City of Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department Water Resource Recovery Facility
The City of Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department is "dedicated to protecting the environment, public health and welfare." Photo via fb.com

Grand Rapids is planning a $30-million project that would add a biodigester to a city facility.

Environmental Services Director Mike Lunn said the project is a response to better treat the growing stream of food waste from companies like Founders Brewing Co., Coca-Cola and Amway.

Lunn said the $30-million price tag, which covers the cost of a $21-million biodigester and other infrastructure changes needed to install it, was deemed a more viable option than a $90-million extension to the plant or issuing permits requiring companies to pre-treat their waste.

The city is preparing an RFP, with the hope that a bid will be awarded in May or June. With subsequent construction, the biodigester is expected to be up and running at the city's Water Resource Recovery Facility, at 1300 Market Ave. SW, by 2018.

The cost would be covered in part by municipal bonds, and Lunn said operational reductions should offset the cost of the project, with the city looking at a slight net positive from the biodigester.

Lunn said the city is taking precautions to ensure the biodigester doesn’t run into the same problems that plagued a similar project in Lowell, where the constant foul smell of waste resulted in the City of Lowell terminating its contract with Lowell Energy AD. That includes the use of carbon filters to control the waste odor.

“Lowell was not a typical project,” Lunn said. “There’s thousands of successful biodigesters for every unsuccessful one.”

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