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Delano representatives tour anaerobic digesters
Nov. 30, 2015

By Gabe Licht

DELANO, MN – With Randy’s Environmental Services working toward establishing an anaerobic digester for processing waste in Delano, city representatives traveled to South San Francisco, CA to tour a similar facility there.

“The trip was very worthwhile,” City Administrator Phil Kern said during a city council work session. “The best part was seeing it, actually understanding what it is and the concept, and talking to city staff. It was very good to hear what they went through.”

Councilman Jack Russek asked those who visited the facility about odor.

“There’s no more smell there than if you’re standing right outside of Randy’s,” Mayor Dale Graunke said.

“The fire marshal said they’ve never gotten a complaint,” Councilman Jason Franzen added.

He noted that a company with 7,000 employees is located just 150 feet away.

Kern said he had three takeaways from the trip, the first of which was related to odor management.

“How do we make sure we do as good of a job as they did with odor management? (South San Francisco senior planner) Billy Gross has given us exactly what they required,” Kern said. “I think we can do that. I came home much more reassured.”

His second takeaway was the fire and safety plan.

“What happens if something goes wrong? The safety precautions they have in play, we need to make sure we do those things,” Kern said. “It was good to be there and see it. It was good for (Delano Fire Chief) Bob (Van Lith) to be there and see it.”

Kern said his third takeaway was the potential anaerobic digesters present.

“They have gas that goes into trucks,” Kern said of the natural gas that is produced and captured from an anaerobic digester. “They’ve already innovated with the other gases that come out of the process that are byproducts.”

Franzen said he had concerns about the gases produced by anaerobic digesters.

“Natural gas is going to be pressurized and contained Ammonia, which is the principle smell, will be scrubbed out at the end of the process. There’s more gases than those two coming out of there,” Franzen said. “The one I was thinking of was hydrogen sulfide, which is more dangerous than the other two. They have this acid that precipitates down and pulls the hydrogen sulfide out . . . They’re working on selling that, too.”

Graunke pointed out that California has stringent air quality standards, and that the city of South San Francisco asked its waste company to build the anaerobic digesters.

Kern noted that it only took 90 days for the permit for the facility to be approved. Randy’s has been waiting twice as long, and its permit has yet to be approved.

Odds and ends
In other ends, the council:

• discussed three proposals from an individual interested in the Heritage Center. One option would be to sell the facility, the second option would be completing requested upgrades and leasing the facility, and the third option would be allowing the individual to complete upgrades and take three years – $43,200 – off the lease in return.

Management assistant Ashleigh Walter noted the individual could do the work cheaper than the city, which would need to monitor any work to ensure that it does not violate the terms of $91,000 in grants the city received for restoring the building. She believes the city would not have to return the grant funding, as long as it maintains ownership and adheres to the conditions of the grants.

Kern said he believed the lease option with the leaser doing improvements would make the most sense, though the city may want to only take two years off the lease.

• discussed the city’s contract with Veolia for the wastewater treatment plant, which expires at the end of 2015. Veolia would like the city to sign a five-year contract, with a 0 percent increase the first year. Kern said he has been pleased with the service Veolia has provided and also noted the contract can be canceled at any time with a 90-days notice. Russek said he would like a guarantee that the rate would not increase by more than 2.5 percent in any given year. Kern noted that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is requiring the city to reduce its phosphorous numbers. The cost of the change is unknown. Partly because of the uncertainty that change will create, and also because of the city’s history with Veolia, Kern recommended signing a contract extension.

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