AUGUSTA — A new plan to spend $350,000 to collect and maximize the value of more methane gas from Hatch Hill landfill goes to city councilors Thursday.

The city already collects methane gas, produced by decomposing garbage in closed-off sections of the city-owned regional landfill to prevent it from escaping into the environment.

Also, city officials are working with consultants to design and, potentially within a year, begin operating a system to use the gas produced and captured at Hatch Hill to make electricity that would be fed into the electrical grid and help offset the city’s electricity costs.

Now City Manager William Bridgeo and other city staff members propose tapping into the currently active portion of the landfill to collect methane gas there, both to prevent it from escaping into the air and harming the environment and to provide more gas to be converted into electricity by the proposed methane-to-electricity system.

Lesley Jones, public works director, said the city would need to put gas collection wells into the part of the landfill currently in use anyway before it is closed. Doing so now, instead of waiting, she and Bridgeo said, could provide more fuel to be burned to produce electricity.

“Putting it in now is better for the environment and ensures we have enough gas for the methane-to-electricity project,” Jones said Tuesday.

Bridgeo said the city’s permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection note the wells would be installed before the closure of that area of the landfill.

Jones said the landfill, including the Expansion 3 area being contemplated for the new gas collection system, is projected to have 13 years of lifespan remaining, before it is deemed full and could close. However, the landfill’s contents are expected to continue to produce methane gas for years after it closes.

The estimated $350,000 it would cost to install the methane collection system in that section of the landfill would come from a reserve fund in which money is collected and set aside to pay for expenses related to the landfill’s eventual closure.

So, Bridgeo noted in a memo to councilors, the proposal would have no cost to taxpayers nor any effect on the Hatch Hill operating budget.

Jones said the landfill closure fund, as of the June 30 close of the last fiscal year, had $6.08 million in it, and closure liabilities are estimated to be $10.66 million.

The closure reserve fund is made up of money collected from users of the landfill. Currently, Hatch Hill takes $17.41 for every ton of material that goes into the landfill and puts it into the closure reserve fund, out of about $72 a ton in charges.

The larger proposal to build a system to convert the captured methane gas into electricity is projected to cost about $2 million, which city officials anticipate would be more than paid back in the potential savings in electrical costs.

Jones said the proposal to create that new system, partial funding for which has been previously approved by councilors, could go to the Planning Board for review in January 2018 and could go out to bid that June. The goal is to have the project up and running in October 2018.

Councilors plan to meet to consider whether to approve the proposal to install gas collection wells in the active portion of Hatch Hill at 7 p.m. Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Consider enacting a moratorium on recreational marijuana retail sales and other marijuana commercial activity;

• Issue a proclamation designating Augusta Senior Citizen Housing Week;

• Consider authorizing Bridgeo to sign a contract agreement with Augusta Public Works Department Local 1458 of Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; and

• Consider authorizing a 2 percent cost-of-living raise to full-time and permanent part-time non-union employees, to be effective July 1, 2017.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

 

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