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Re: E-M:/ Manure Power coming to Muskegon

Dear Diane,
There are significant issues to be addressed with manure generated electricity. The technology goes by several names, methane digesters and anaerobic digestion are just 2. The promoters of such technology claim that energy will be generated, odor will cease to be an issue and the effluent or product from digesters will be sterile compost.
There are many problems with digesters. In my research I have discovered that digesters are expensive, requiring taxpayer subsidies, they do not work well in low temperatures requiring energy to heat up the liquid manure to get the digestion to work well. The digesters emit ammonia in excess of air pollution standards unless expensive ammonia stripping technology is used, and according to a study done by Iowa State University and the University of Iowa Study Group, anaerobic digesters or digester technology "do not reduce the volume or nutrient concentration of manure significantly" Odors are reduced from liquid manure but not from the facilities themselves which are a significant source of not just odor but other emissions such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
If you look at the whole system of producing milk and meat by confining thousands of animals in buildings, using millions of gallons of clean ground water to substitute for labor, by liquefying the feces and urine of those thousands of animals, it creates millions of gallons of waste, not nutrients. Even If this waste could generate electricity efficiently, it must be stored in lagoons on site until it is trucked to a central facility, using energy and tearing up rural roads (which have already had hundreds of 100 yr.+ old trees and native shrubs removed on right-of-ways to allow large trucks to move quickly in our area.) Remember, it is semi-truck after semi-truck of liquid manure day after day in these rural areas.
There is still the issues of groundwater and surface water contamination from the lagoons at the CAFOs (many have 2-3 lagoons or more). The health effects to rural residents from emissions from the CAFO facilities themselves from hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and particulate will not be addressed by digester technology. Finally there is the effluent. Nothing I have read has indicated this would be "sterile compost". The quantity of manure is not reduced, it still must be put somewhere.
This is an "add on" technology to a very polluting system of meat and milk production. We must get away from the liquid manure/lagoon system of production. If this industrial park model of processing liquid manure is seen as a solution to this polluting form of production then more CAFOs will be attracted to the area and it will become an agricultural industrial zone that tried to address only one part of a huge problem but did not look at the whole system.
The solution is to put animals back on pasture and to stop using the liquid system of production.
For information on an analysis on methane digesters see: Statement by Grace Factory Farm project on Methane Digesters from June 2003
the Iowa CAFO Air Quality Study p.208:
Kathy Melmoth, RN and farmer
Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM)
.----- Original Message -----
From: danderso
Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 12:46 PM
Subject: E-M:/ Manure Power coming to Muskegon

The article below is from last Sunday's Muskegon Chronicle. Can anyone with knowledge of CAFO issues shed some light on this? I'm all for putting the millions of gallons of CAFO waste to better use than polluting our water & air, but I guess my immediate concern would be encouraging the "build it and they will come" syndrome. I apologize for posting the entire article here, I couldn't find a link to it anywhere. Thanks.
Diana Jancek
Muskegon Chronicle
February 29, 2004
Local leaders pushing for manure power at county site
By Dave Alexander
Chronicle Business Editor
In three short months, the head of Muskegon's new alternative energy center has generated plenty of interest in developing a $1.3 million manure-to-electricity demonstration plant.
    Imad Mahawili-executive director of Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center-along with state and federal legislators are pushing for a plant that would convert pig or cow manure into methane that would be used to generate electricity.
    The Muskego County Wastewater Management System is the preferred location for the "bio-digester" and microturbine electric combination, Mahawili said. Such a plant could help solve large farm operations problems with disposal of animal wastes.
     As for the manure-to-energy plant, it fits nicely with what Muskegon County and state legislators are trying to accomplish at the Wastewater Management System with a plan for a "large lot" industrial site, county Public Works Director David Kendrick said.
    The county hopes to use some of the thousands of acres at the wastewater site south of Apple Avenue to develop an industrial park that could be home to food processing and other agri-business operations. Kendrick said the electricity generated by a waste-to-energy plant could be used by the wastewater facility and by potential new industries.
    That is the vision that Mahawili has shared with state Rep. David Farhat, R-Norton Shores, who is trying to line up state agricultural officials and Michigan livestock interests behind a low-tax agricultural enterprise zone for the wastewater site. Federal efforts for support also are being worked through U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra's office, Farhat said.
    "The energy plant is perfect for the wastewater site," Farhat said. "We need to convince the Michigan Department of Agriculture that this is a farm issue because the (energy) source is swine manure."
    The wastewater site is a logical location because the farm odors from a bio-digester would not be bothersome to residents and businesses, Farhat and Mahawili said. The wastewater site is isolated and already has a garbage disposal operation on site.
    The wastewater site also is a large electrical user and is located near large cow and pig farms in the eastern end of Muskegon County. West Michigan farmers are willing to transport manure to a central location, Mahawili said.
    The plant would take a high-tech digestive system using biological agents to break down the manure, producing methane gases. The remaining material would be a sterile compost that could be sold as an agricultural product, Mahawili said.
    The GVSU energy center is working with Ennis Associates LLC of Muskegon, a local chemical engineering consulting group. Ennis is a two-year-old technical management consulting firm formed by Tom McEnhill and Mike Krivitsky, who combine 70 years experience in the chemical industry in Michigan.
    Farmers in Muskegon and Zeeland areas are also helping GVSU in planning the bio-mass plant, Mahawili said.
    A manure-to-energy plant would need from three to five workers to keep a 24-hour-a-day operation going, Mahawili said. A plant sized for a large-farm operation could be duplicated across the state and nation, he said.
    "I  believe in this...I want to build it and demonstrate it can work," Mahawili said. "You can't transfer this technology or jobs to China. The farms are here."
    The demonstration plant would be based on either a 500-cow or 5,000-pig supply of manure, Mahawili estimates. Some 61,000 pounds of pig manure could produce 75 kilowatts of electricity per hour and 3,356 pounds of compost. Some 55,000 pounds of cow manure could produce 50 kilowatts of electricity per hour and 2,828 pounds of compost.