Surrey believes biofuels facility change will solve its stink problem

Surrey says it has solved the stink problem caused by thousands of tonnes of rotting food scraps awaiting recycling.

  • May. 22, 2016 5:00 a.m.

Surrey is building a state-of-the-art organic biofuels recycling facility. Once operational

Kent Spencer, Vancouver Sun

Surrey says it has solved the stink problem caused by thousands of tonnes of rotting food scraps awaiting recycling.

A state-of-the-art, fully enclosed processing plant is being built in Port Kells which will seal in obnoxious smells and stop odour from drifting into the neighbourhood.

Surrey engineering manager Rob Costanzo said neighbours won’t sniff a thing when the $68-million operation is finished next year.

“Odour’s a big deal. That’s why we want to ensure we have a world-class suppression system in place. We are pioneers in this technology in North America,” he said.

Lower Mainland households have become familiar with foul smells caused by decaying food since region-wide recycling was mandated last year.

“It’s important to remember, that if there’s food scraps, it’s going to smell,” said Andrew Marr, director of solid-waste planning for Metro Vancouver.

Individual households cover up odours with sealed bags in freezers, but it is not so easy for outdoor operations which handle 190,000 tonnes of Metro Vancouver food waste each year.

No matter how good the current systems, odour can cause problems for those living nearby.

Harvest Power in east Richmond is seeking to renew its Metro Vancouver air permit after generating odour complaints from neighbours last year while processing 200,000 tonnes of food and green waste.

The company replaced worn-out bio-filters as well as underground pipes which provided fresh air to outdoor compost piles.

“We’re working with a community liaison committee to address the concerns,” said Harvest spokesman Stephen Bruyneel. “We know we have to be good neighbours.”

Costanzo said those problems will be a thing of the past when Surrey’s 115,000-tonnes-a-year facility opens its doors next February.

Heavy construction for the 160,000 square foot facility is expected to be completed next February.

The biofuels plant has taken almost 10 years to come together.  It started with a suggestion from then-councillor Marvin Hunt, continued with a study of European technologies and ended in a public-private partnership with Orgaworld Canada. The federal government contributed 25 per cent of the capital cost.

“The city’s risk is limited to providing land and guaranteed residential organic waste feedstock,” Costanzo said. “The private partner carries most of the risk: technical, commercial and private financing.”

The secret to smell suppression was moving indoors to a fully enclosed, 160,000-square-foot building.

The building is under “negative pressure,” meaning air pressure is lower inside than out.

When the doors open for truckloads of food and garden waste, air is sucked into the building.

“We have fast-closing doors. The air does not escape,” said Constanzo.

Processing occurs in two stages. The first chamber is a type of airless digestion in which up to 120,000 gigajoules of natural gas annually will be extracted for use by the city’s fleet of 42 garbage trucks.

The composting chamber is being built on the southern portion of the site.

The second composting chamber employs traditional air-circulating techniques in which more than 40,000 tonnes of soil will be created for use in gardens and farms.

Before heading up a 70-metre-high stack, the air is channelled into an ammonia scrubber and pushed through wood chip filters.

Constanzo guarantees the odour unit measurement will amount to just one part per million at ground level in the 9700-block of 192 Street in Port Kells.

He said there will be no cost to 102,000 single-family homes in Surrey.

“The $283 fee for waste collection will still be $283 after this is done. Our payment is through our disposal fee,” he said.

Russell said the completely enclosed system and stack are what separates Surrey from other operations.

“Surrey’s stack is what resolves this issue,” he said.

Food waste adds about $700 a year to every household’s grocery bill in Metro Vancouver.

Leftover meat and vegetables in landfills produce methane gas, which is a significant addition to global warming, said Russell.

“There is a huge environmental benefit to producing biofuels and compost,” he said.

Click here to read more stories from the Vancouver Sun.

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