Nature's Fuel project moving along

A Fort Wayne-based company will soon be accepting all solid waste from the city of Huntington and leaving no pollution behind, using a new facility that will be the first of its kind in the United States.

Nature's Fuel has been in talks with local and state officials for months concerning the opening of a new solid waste transfer and processing plant at the City of Huntington Landfill.

At the Huntington Common Council meeting on July 14, Glen Johnson, chief operating officer for Nature's Fuel, reported that the project is well on its way to the start of construction and operation.

However, before Nature's Fuel can begin building, the company must secure both air and solid waste permits from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Since there is virtually no pollution, I'm not worried about either one," Johnson says.

Johnson says that the air permit is basically secured, but IDEM and EPA findings need to be sent to the Common Council for a public hearing before the process is complete.

With the solid waste permit, Johnson says that it is taking longer than anticipated, not because of any real environmental concerns, but because of the innovative design of the plant.

"The reason it's taking longer is because IDEM and the EPA have never done (such a permit) before," says Johnson. "They've done permits for transfer stations and processing stations, but they've never done one for a transfer and processing station in the same facility."

After the permits are secured, Nature's Fuel will sign a lease and operating agreement with the city, and Johnson says he hopes construction will begin in late October or early November so that the foundation can be built before the ground freezes in the winter. This would ensure that the building would be complete and in operation by late spring or early summer of 2010.

In the worst case scenario, construction won't begin until March, in which case the building will still be completed within three to four months.

In the agreement attorneys representing Nature's Fuel and the city are putting together, Nature's Fuel will hire 75 percent of its employees from the city of Huntington.

The new plant will process all of Huntington's trash and garbage.

Metals, glass and certain plastics will be sorted for recycling, and the rest will be put through the company's patented "gasification" process and converted into three different materials: bio-gas, used for the production of clean, renewable energy; bio-oils, ultra-low sulfur diesel or heating oils that can be used for a variety of industrial, agricultural and residential purposes; and biochar, which can be used agriculturally as a nutrient-retainer for plants, thereby increasing crop yields, and can also be used in carbon-filtration sys-tems such as smokestacks and wastewater treatment.

Because Nature's Fuel does not require trash and recycling to be separated before it arrives at the plant, the city may not need the use of Marion Services Inc., which the city currently has contracted for curbside recycling pickup and maintenance of the two recycling bins in Huntington.

Mayor Steve Updike proposed the cancellation of recycling services for the last three months of the year, as Nature's Fuel is projected to begin operations in early 2010. He says that the city can save $190,000 by ending the partnership with Marion Services.

Yet, Steve Dyke, general manager of Marion Services, disagrees wholeheartedly with that proposal. Instead, he says the city should hire Marion Services to pick up all waste, citing a cost analysis of $7 per house, per month.

Trash is currently picked up by city employees.

"I think the city can save money if they privatize the trash service, and let Marion do trash and the recycling," Dyke says.

Regardless of which entity collects trash, all waste will be sent to the Nature's Fuel plant.

Councilman Steve McIntyre called for a comparison of costs between the city and Marion Services in regards to collecting trash. The council decided to discuss its options further at its next meeting.