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E-M:/ Facts not fiction - Re: Solving our organic waste problems ...

Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>

Thu, 23 Sep 2004, Anne M. Woiwode wrote:

... see below ...

Hello Anne,

In your below response to my post which is also below, you summarily
dismiss the use of anaerobic composting digesters to help solve our
organic waste problems and all of the technical objections that you
state, are not facts but fiction.

You also intermix other dubious objections which have nothing to do
with the technical effectiveness of anaerobic composting digesters in
solving our organic waste problems.

Apparently you have neither visited nor studied anaerobic composting
digesters in Europe, as for many decades, it has been a proven technology
and is widely used for the exact purposes that I state and without the
technical problems that you cite.

Within the USA, we have not learned from Europe
for many reasons, a few of which are:

lack of a willingness on the part of some of our engineers to fully
draw upon designs that are proven in Europe and thus, have implemented
poor systems, leading to your type dismissal of the technology;

lack of a willingness on the part of our agricultural industry, to
invest in the technology due in the main, to the above and the higher
cost when compared to cheap, low end technologies that are widely used
in the USA, like storage lagoons and the spreading of raw, non-composted
manure which in many instances, cause much ecological damage.

As I am not an anaerobic digester engineer, I will now submit your
post to the U.S. Composting Council discussion group for comments from
those who are engineers knowledgeable in state-of-the-art technology,
in order to verify all of your below technical errors which you cite
in your dismissal of the technology and for which I do have enough
knowledge to comment upon but I prefer to provide expert engineering
witness that carries a credibility that my comments would not provide
to all the members of this Michigan discussion group, in their efforts
to understand solutions to our organic waste problems.

As soon as I have those comments, I will post them here and we and the
others in this discussion group, can further evaluate solutions to those
problems which are based on fact and not dismissed by fiction.


Lowell Prag

On Thu, 23 Sep 2004, Anne M. Woiwode wrote:

> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Enviro-Mich message from "Anne M. Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The response to my post was entitled "Solving our organic waste
> problems...", but that is exactly what is wrong with the attempts at the
> state and federal level to subsidize methane digesters for concentrated
> animal feeding operations (CAFOs). In addition to the state level tax
> subsidized loans and tax breaks being discussed in SB 953, 954, and 955
> (954 is still in the Senate, but 953 and 955 are on the House Floor),
> the USDA is also providing massive subsidies for some of these
> operations as well.
> Methane digesters DON'T SOLVE the waste problems for CAFOs -- while
> digesters might provide a potentially sound add-on to small livestock
> operations, CAFOs should not be given additional taxpayer funded
> subsidies for a technology that will NOT solve the problems of waste,
> when other much more sound alternatives to the production of the waste
> in the first place are available.
> CAFOs in Michigan are already a heavily subsidized industry (go to the
> Environmental Working Group website for agricultural subsidies for
> livestock operations in Michigan
> http://www.ewg.org/farm/progdetail.php?fips=26000&progcode=livestock ).
> One has to question why agricultural operations which are getting, in
> some cases, 10s of millions of dollars in loans from lending
> institutions, yet are still causing severe pollution across the country
> side, would not be expected to incorporate the cost of meeting our
> environmental laws into their budgets and paying for complying with our
> laws themselves.  But even if there is an argument to be made for
> helping support such compliance, after many years of discussion and
> debate this technology has not proven itself worthy of consideration as
> a way to address those problems.
> Excellent background materials on this issue, including links to
> proceedings for a national conference on methane digestion from last
> year, can be found at the GRACE Factory Farm website, which does a fine
> job of documenting their assertions:
> http://www.factoryfarm.org/press/docs/Methane_Digesters_2003final062703.
> doc
> In particular, the environmental shortcomings of CAFOs and methane
> digesters include:
> 	- methane digesters are supposed to address odors, but they
> don't have any effect on some of the worst sources of odors which
> include the barns where animals are confined and the waste lagoons where
> the animal wastes are stored:
> 	- ammonia production increases during methane digester
> operations and to be off-gassed into the air, meaning that while one
> greenhouse gas is being converted to energy, another one is being
> emitted in increased amounts;
> 	- the combination of the cost of actually doing ammonia
> stripping from methane digesters coupled with the short lifespan of the
> facilities (less than 10 years) makes this an uneconomical way to
> generate energy;
> 	- methane digesters do NOT decrease the actual amount of waste
> that needs to be disposed of, which means one of the worst problems in
> Michigan with CAFOS, which is a lack of suitable available land for
> disposal near the facilities, is not mitigated at all;
> 	- many of the worst contaminants, from heavy metals to chemicals
> in the wastes, and even, depending on the process used, pathogens, are
> NOT removed in the digester, so these still end up on the land with the
> same likelihood as before that they will pollute surface and
> groundwaters;
> 	- and, last but not least, the amount of methane produced is
> small, particularly compared to the price.
> There is a good reason that the pro-CAFO community once again has its
> hands stuck out asking for another taxpayer subsidy that will take funds
> away for good alternatives to CAFOs and possibly even encourage MORE
> CAFOs to be built.  One concern that has been raised is that the large
> scale methane digesters that have been discussed in Michigan may well
> require more CAFOs to be built in proximity to support their demand for
> waste.
> We also have seen nothing of permitting requirements for these
> facilities -- are their air quality and water quality permits being
> required for methane digesters, or are the claiming exemption as
> agricultural operations?
> The issue gets back again to the fundamental problem -- the state of
> Michigan is like a 20 gallon bucket into which the pro-CAFO forces are
> trying to shove 200 gallons of fetid, polluting animal wastes --
> Michigan needs to go back to the drawing board on this whole mess
> instead of continuing to head down the path of encouraging and providing
> more subsidies and support to these facilities.
> Anne Woiwode
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> Anne Woiwode, Director
> Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
> 109 East Grand River Avenue,  Lansing, MI  48906
> ph: 517-484-2372 fx: 517-484-3108 e: anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org
> website:  http://michigan.sierraclub.org
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
> [mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net] On Behalf Of Lowell Prag
> Sent: Thursday, September 23, 2004 1:21 PM
> To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
> Subject: E-M:/ Solving our organic waste problems ...
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -
> Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -
> On Thu, 23 Sep 2004, Anne M. Woiwode wrote:
> > Thanks for your question -- more than 50 Sierra Club members and
> > supporters came to the Capitol for a full day of meetings with
> > Legislators.  This wonderful, diverse group ranged in age from
> teenagers
> > to senior citizens, came from all over the lower peninsula, and talked
> > about three primary issues:
> ...
> > - the critical need to address concentrated animal feeding operations
> > (CAFOS), which attention to asking legislators to oppose the methane
> > digester subsidy bills which were before the House that day; and
> ...
> Hello Anne,
> Could you please explain the logic of your above position.
> My understanding is that it is not a give away of tax payer dollars but
> rather, a loan program beginning with a total of $25,000,000 that is to
> be made available:
> http://www.michiganlegislature.org/documents/2003-2004/
> billanalysis/house/htm/2003-HLA-0953-3.htm
> >From a technical viewpoint:
> the only logical solution to the enormous amounts of manure that are
> produced by cafos, is the use of anaerobic composting disgesters which
> extract from organic wastes, methane gas for use as fuel to produce
> electricity which is sent back into utility company's power grid, for
> sale back to them, while also producing compost for use on our farm
> lands,
> displacing the present use of petrol-chemical derived fertilizers which
> not only consume huge amounts of fossil fuel to produce, but also
> destroy
> the long-term viability of the soil.
> It should be noted that anaerobic composting disgesters can also solve
> in a similar fashion, the current problems we have with disposing of
> our organic wastes in landfills and incinerators but that is another
> discussion.
> For a model of a large scale, successful implementation of such an
> approach to organic wastes, I refer you to Nova Scotia in Canada.
> Michigan should also implement such an approach, by educating the
> general public and our political leaders as to the feasibility.
> Below is an email from David Wimberly <davidwimberly@eastlink.ca>,
> who pioneered much of the work in Nova Scotia and which explains
> their approach.
> It can also be read here:
> [USCC] Biomass energy priorities ...
> http://mailman.cloudnet.com/pipermail/compost/2004-September/012532.html
> I also refer you to this unique index approach that they take to the
> general issue of sustainability which Michigan should also develop:
> GPI Atlantic - A Genuine Progress Index (GPI) to Measure Sustainability
> http://gpiatlantic.org/
> Regards,
> Lowell Prag
> Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2004 21:11:08 -0700
> From: Gary Liss <gary@garyliss.com>
> Reply-To: US Composting Council Compost Discussion List
>     <compost@compostingcouncil.org>
> To: compost@compostingcouncil.org
> Subject: [USCC] Biomass energy priorities ...
> I am forwarding these from another list for the Compost list members'
> info.
> >Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2004 14:45:35 -0300
> >From: David Wimberly <davidwimberly@eastlink.ca>
> >
> >I have been a long time anti-incineration activist and have also
> >consistently promoted more sustainable and healthy alternatives.  I
> live in
> >the Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada area where I was the chief citizen
> >architect and advocate of our Waste/Resource Management System. Paul
> Connett
> >and many others have stated it is the best in the world although it is
> far
> >from perfect.  Currently we conserve about 48 to 49% of what was once
> MSW.
> >This week an initiative will be announced designed to get us to 60%.
> Our
> >citizen's strategy outlined how to reach 88%.  A very current critique
> using
> >state of the art evaluation including costs/benefits to the environment
> is
> >available at http://gpiatlantic.org/ I helped write/research the final
> >section on how to go forward.  Please download it.  Other reports there
> will
> >also be widely useful.
> >
> >I have led and help lead successful battles to stop imported waste
> >incinerators, a PCB incinerator, a MSW incinerator, a medical waste
> >incinerator, and a sewage sludge incinerator.  Currently my main
> interest is
> >in helping others acquire the tools and perspectives to be successful
> in
> >compassionate social action in a wide spectrum of arenas in modern
> society.
> >
> >Here in Nova Scotia citizens are very strongly opposed to incineration.
> >Only one remains and it is in Cape Breton.  I am horrified to see how
> much
> >incineration is being promoted elsewhere. And I find repugnant
> suggestions
> >to incineration sewage sludge.
> >
> >Our local government is promoting a very unsustainable form of sewage
> sludge
> >land application for current materials.  They want to use a slightly
> less
> >problematical form in the future, which I and many others don't accept
> >either.
> >
> >The only long term solution to the pollutants in sewage sludge is to
> never
> >put them there in the first place.  Much better source controls is
> where I
> >chose to put my energy in this area.  I propose source controls based
> on
> >"Zero Toxic Discharge" and the "No Net Degradation" regulatory model.
> These
> >should be informed by the Precautionary Principle.  If we endorse
> >"solutions" to any material that includes landfill, incineration or any
> >other form that permanently wastes or destroys them, then every living
> thing
> >looses. Eventually we will have turned our world into waste.
> >
> >The core of the NS/Halifax MSW program is source-separated composting,
> which
> >produces clean organic material we have real need for with our thin
> soils on
> >rocky ground.  Similarly we need to promote systems that are actually
> >sustainable for the organics in sludge.  Pathogens and toxins are
> difficult
> >problems, but lets only promote methods that truly eliminate them, not
> turn
> >them into one more problem like incineration or landfilling.
> >
> >Here in Nova Scotia we have a few Solar Aquatics sewage treatment
> systems
> >that turn sludge into plants and leaves the water clear and clean. Only
> >slight ultraviolet treatment is done, mostly as a precaution.
> >
> >With every best wish,
> >David
> Gary Liss
> 916-652-7850
> Fax: 916-652-0485
> www.garyliss.com
> _______________________________________________
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