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New Trash-To-Energy Plant Could Solve Several Crises By Harry Saltzgaver

Executive Editor,

Third District Councilman Frank Colonna thinks he has a way to help deal with a current crisis and deal with two impending crises at the same time.

Tuesday Colonna asked city staff to study whether an expansion of the city’s trash-to-electricity plant, SERRF (Southeast Resource Recovery Facility), makes economic sense. As part of the recommendation, he asked the staff to study whether a water desalination plant could be part of an expansion.

Built 13 years ago, the SERRF plant burns about 1,400 tons of trash a day, using that energy to produce 35 megawatts of electricity — about enough to power 30,000 homes. That electricity is sold to Southern California Edison under a long-term contract.

“Expanding or building a second plant obviously is contingent on market forces,” Colonna said. “But we’re helping to deal with trash from 20 cities now, and the plant is operating at 100% capacity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“With an upgrade of the existing plant or a new plant, we could help take care of more of the trash disposal needs in Long Beach and the surrounding area, and generate more electricity. Then there is the need for more potable water. It just makes sense to see if we could look forward and deal with several of these issues.”

Long Beach has been considering ways to increase electricity production — including a new power plant at the Port of Long Beach — for the last six months. Long Beach Energy Director Chris Garner told the City Council on Tuesday that a natural gas-fired generation plant would require an investment of more than $50 million.

The SERRF plant makes money both by selling electricity and charging for trash dumped there. Colonna said the trash operation is the one of the largest contract money-generators for the city.

Potential sites for a second trash-to-energy plant would be identified during the study, Colonna said. He conceded the site of the current plant across from the former Naval Shipyard likely is too small, particularly if a desalination plant is part of the plans.

The desalination component of the plan was added, Colonna said, to address the continued increase of demand for water. The city’s Water Department currently is working in partnership with Poseidon Resources to develop a 40 million gallon a day desalination plant in east Long Beach, next to the AES electricity generation plant.

That proposal is in the Third District, and has received Colonna’s support. He said this week he still supports that project, but considers a SERRF-desalination partnership a viable alternative.

“We’re still looking at whether desalination makes economic sense,” Colonna said. “It is very dependent on having a large amount of electricity available. I’m all in favor of a public-private partnership, but Š with the situation as it is now, we have to worry a bit about AES. If a desalination plant were tied to a SERRF plant, we would be able to direct our own energy destiny.”

One person, Ann Dennison, argued that the idea should not even be studied. Dennison said that the SERRF plant, contrary to reports, is a significant polluter of the air, and a second plant would make a bad situation worse.

Several other speakers supported the proposal and said the city should move forward.

The council approved the request for a study. No timeline was set.

-- PHO (, July 17, 2001


Recycling that trash would save more energy than converting it into smog and highly toxic ash. See for more about the stupidity of burning garbage, one of the primary sources of air pollution for ultrahazardous dioxins and furans (and lead in the air).

-- mark (, July 17, 2001.

Mark, Its obvious that the trash must be sorted to remove hazardous items. With proper scrubbers, trash can be burned without smog. I live a mile from a trash burner in Elk River, MN and never seen any smoke.

-- John Littmann (, July 17, 2001.

I don't think Mark has heard of the newest Best Available Control (BACT) and Maximum Available Control Technology (MACT) that is now required to be retrofitted onto all (even smaller, previously exempt) plants nowadays. This includes some sort of NH3 injection for NOx control, scrubbers for acid gases (SO2,HCL), activated carbon injection for mercury control, bag houses for particulates (rather than inefficient precepitators). In fact, in some cases the gases from the stacks are actually lower in most contaminating pollutents than the ambient air into which they are exhausting.

Also as John states, the trash is subjected to some sort of front end sorting to remove most recycleable materials including most of those that produce dioxins and furans when burned (plastics). However the carbon injection also lowers these compounds into the tenths of one part per billion concentrations.

-- PHO (, July 18, 2001.

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