Archived Story

Incinerator expansion boon for Perham, Otter Tail County

Published 11:00am Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The city of Perham will be benefiting from an influx of garbage within the next two years.

Otter Tail, Becker, Wadena and Todd counties and a state grant have contributed $28 million to expansion of the Perham incinerator, and according to county solid waste director Mike Hanan, all that trash is going to mean a lot for Perham residents and the rest of the county.

“That’s competitive energy that will be coming from the site; energy that is cheaper than what local factories like Tuffy’s and Bongards’ could make on their own,” Hanan said. “It also means that in the next year and a half there will be a lot of contractors in the area who will need gas and places to eat and stay.”

In late February, the project passed an environmental impact statement with the county board and, just last week, received its permits for construction and operation. With all the hurdles passed, Hanan said they are hoping to be breaking ground as soon as the weather allows.

The facility was built in 1986 and was privately run until 1998. With an abundance of environmental rule changes in the late 1990s, it was passed on tothe city. In 2002, the plant was brought online for the county and in 2004 started selling steam production to Tuffy’s Pet Foods and Bongards’ Creamery.

Before the city officials closed the Fergus Falls incinerator, the two plants were sending about 2,000 tons of waste to landfills. After the Fergus shutdown, the Perham plant picked up what it could, but a large amount, about 14,000 tons, went to a landfill in Gwinner, N.D.

With the expansion, the facility will increase its current garbage intake to between 55,000 and 62,000 tons a year from 35,000 tons annually. The expansion will allow the incinerator to take garbage from Otter Tail, Todd and Becker counties.

The expansion will also increase the number of jobs to 15 from 30.

With higher gas prices increasing the cost of transporting waste to landfills — most of the garbage was hauled to Gwinner, N.D., 80 miles from Fergus Falls — waste managers turned to the Perham plant.

“We started to look at the situation and think of how we could bring all this waste to Perham,” Hanan said.

One of the biggest advantages of the expansion will be the new material recovery facility that allows for the assortment of waste before it hits the burner.

Because incoming metals and glass increase the facility’s maintenance costs, magnet separators and an eddy current system will be installed to pull harmful materials.

“This will actually be a pretty fun facility for people to see,” Hanan said. A classroom will also be built within the facility.

“Part of our intention is to make sure people understand what’s happening locally with their waste,” Hanan said. “We’re expecting that this new facility will be more conducive to doing that.”

$8 million of the amount for the expansion will be used to clear debt from a past bond. Hanan also pointed out that $8 million will also come from the state.

But with the cost to the county, Hanan is certain that the future benefits of sending the waste to Perham will pay off.

“The number one thing this is going to do is give us a place to control our waste locally,” Hanan said. “The majority of waste in the state goes to a landfill. In our case, we are looking at the fact that we are creating energy and much less waste is being buried for this community.”

  • nanajean

    To bad that the City didn’t keep the one here up to code. It would have saved a lot of money in the long run. Another bad decision.

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