Friday, July 24, 2009

Food Waste In --> Clean Water Out

Food waste helps power wastewater plant
Kelly Zito, San Francisco Chronicle, July 24, 2009

Under an innovative program touted as the first of its kind in the nation, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) collects about 100 tons of food scraps from restaurants and grocery stores each week, speeds up the decomposition process, and uses the resulting methane gases to fuel the energy-hungry pumps and pipelines at its 49-acre wastewater treatment plant. Leftover scraps are turned into compost.

If EBMUD hits its long-term goal of processing 100 to 150 tons of food waste each day, district officials hope to begin selling a steady, sizable amount of renewable energy to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

"This is a great opportunity, especially since our primary focus is public health and environment," said David Williams, director of wastewater at the utility. "Right now, we take a lot of carbon out of the ground and put it out into the air. In this case you're taking carbon that's already here and getting the energy out of it. That's a great thing."

The US Environmental Protection Agency, which awarded EBMUD $50,000 to study the food waste program, said it is the first wastewater system of its kind in the country. Williams expects more utilities to follow, given that treating wastewater consumes a huge amount of energy and that many facilities already have much of the necessary equipment.

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