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Editorial: Pleasanton now part of waste-to-energy coalition

City becomes 21st member of coalition

By signing on to the Bay Area Biosolids to Energy Coalition, the Pleasanton City Council is joining 20 other coalition members seeking to create a local sustainable solution to biosolids management.

The action taken last week enhances the coalition's prospects of obtaining state and federal grants by demonstrating increased regional participation in the project. The goal of the project is to produce renewable energy from biosolids while also reducing the greenhouse gas production and carbon footprint of current biosolids disposal processes.

Agencies, including the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD), have implemented programs to capture methane gas through anaerobic digestion. However, energy value still remains in the biosolids after digestion. Bay Area agencies have formed a coalition to create a local sustainable solution to biosolids management by utilizing the remaining energy.

Identified as the Bay Area Biosolids to Energy (BAB2E) project, most of the participating agencies presently utilize a combination of hauling biosolids for land application or alternative daily cover at landfills and they would like to see these beneficial uses preserved. However, increasingly restrictive regulations and diminishing landfill capacity have been the impetus to seek a long-term sustainable alternative.

The agencies are currently exploring opportunities to diversify biosolids management options with the development of a regional facility or facilities that will use biosolids and possibly other renewable feedstocks to generate renewable energy. Locating one or more regional facilities within the Bay Area would have the added benefit of reducing vehicle miles, currently estimated to exceed one million miles per year, and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with hauling. While open to the use of any of the available technologies, the BAB2E project is seeking to exceed air regulations and to maximize net energy production with state-of-the-art equipment.

Biosolids is the residual organic material remaining after treatment of wastewater. These go through anaerobic digestion treatment at the DSRSD plant on Johnson Drive in Pleasanton to reduce the biosolids and to stabilize the organic material, which becomes odor- and pathogen-free. A byproduct of this process is the production of methane gas, which is then used in the DSRSD wastewater treatment plant for on-site power generation.

Faced with the shrinking availability of disposal sites for stabilized biosolids, DSRSD was one of the founding members in the 1990s of a coalition to investigate implementation of a regional processing facility. In 2006, the DSRSD entered into the Bay Area Biosolids to Energy Coalition to work collaboratively with other wastewater entities to plan and develop a waste-to-energy regional biosolids processing facility.

Members of the coalition, in addition to DSRSD, are Delta Diablo Sanitation District, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Sausalito-Marin City Sanitary District, Union Sanitary District, Central Marin Sanitation Agency, Vallejo Sanitation and Flood Control District, San Mateo County Sanitation District, Fairfield Suisun Sewer District, Ironhouse Sanitary District, San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility, Silicon Valley Clean Water, Central Marin Sanitary District, and the cities of Burlingame, Livermore, Millbrae, Palo Alto, Richmond and Santa Rosa.

With Pleasanton now a member, the coalition has another strong partner to help in securing funds to move this project forward.

Pleasanton Weekly staff.

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