AYER -- As pressure heats up from the state to separate organic waste from solid waste, Ayer has received a grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to perform a study that could be a solution to the problem.
The study will test the treatment of wastewater biosolids and other organic solid waste in a process that produces methane gas. The gas could then be used for heat and electrical energy as well as manageable compost.
According to Mark Wetzel, superintendent of Ayer's Department of Public Works, Ayer disposes of all of its waste by trucking it to Worcester, paying trucking and disposal fees. This study may result in a process that would allow Ayer's Wastewater Treatment Plant to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, both of these costs.
The study proposes that the Wastewater Treatment Plant create an anaerobic digester that would reduce the amount of waste and produce methane gas. An anaerobic digester is a large tank that houses anaerobic bacteria, and once wastewater biosolids and other organic sources from food industries, for example, are added to the mix, the bacteria eats the biosolid, and in turn, produces methane. This methane is collected and treated and used to power heaters, electric generators and possibly even a natural gas-powered vehicle.
This project could not only reduce electrical and heating costs, but could develop additional revenue streams or support new jobs for the community.
"Offshooting jobs could include operators running the facility, disposers of leftover waste, and if we use the product as compost, then that would help our agriculture," Wetzel said.
Wetzel explained that if the town is not willing to build a new facility to perform this treatment once the study determines it feasible, then it could lease space to a privatized operation to do it.
"For private business in renewable energy, there are a lot of incentives for them," he said.
Wetzel explained that if Ayer were to agree to build another facility, the town would have to compare the costs of building versus what it would save through the new process.
A privatized business, on the other hand, he said, would be able to make money faster while renting space from and generating revenue for the town.
Wetzel will be hosting a public forum on this grant and study on Thursday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. at Ayer Town Hall.
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