Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

City 'going green' with $3.5M gasification project

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Council also continues revamping insurance

The City of Lebanon will be "going green, saving green and making green" with its new $3.5 million "waste to energy" project that the Lebanon City Council unanimously approved on second reading at a special called meeting Thursday night, with Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton absent.

In the project, the city will be recycling not only sewer sludge, but also wood waste and old tires. The newly approved gasification plant, to be located at the wastewater treatment plant on North Hartmann Drive, will convert all three types of waste into gas which will be used for heat and producing electricity.

The waste-based gas - called syngas - can also fuel any city vehicles which are equipped to run on bottle gas, Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines said.

The project should save the city, county, and local industries money, according to the report prepared by Nashville-based PHG Energy LLC, the project contractor. The city will save about $175,000 per year by not having to treat its sewer sludge to kill pathogens, since the 2,500-degree temperatures involved in the gasification process will automatically destroy those bacteria.

What's more, the city will no longer face the cost of land-farming about three tons of sewer sludge per day, according to the PHG report.

No more tire shipping

Wilson County could also avoid shipping about 500 tons of scrap tires that it collects each year for proper disposal in Ohio - at a cost of about $100 per ton - since tires can be converted to fuel in the new "waste to energy" project as well.

And local industries could benefit by no longer having to pay about $70 a ton to take wood waste to the Middlepoint Landfill in Rutherford County, and by helping those industries meet federally mandated environmental "sustainability" goals.

Last December, Mayor Philip Craighead contacted those local industries and got a positive reaction from managers who are interested in participating in the "waste to energy" project, according to the PHG report, which concluded that more than enough wood waste is available to meet the gasification plant's minimum need for 27 tons of it per day.

Disposal of wood waste and scrap tires at the new plant won't be free, but it should cost local industries and the county less than half what they currently are paying, officials estimate. And the income from disposal fees will benefit both the city and its contractor.

That's the "saving green and making green" aspect of the project. Its environmental "green-ness" is the reduction of 425 tons per year of greenhouse gases that current disposal systems are producing, or the carbon dioxide output of about 80 cars or 35 homes' energy usage.

Plus, the project will not involve any burning, odor or smoke, according to the PHG report.

Insurance changes eyed

The city council's final approval of the project came Thursday after a work session in which councilors also requested City Finance Officer Robert Springer to prepare a proposal for three different health insurance plans for employees to choose from. The proposal will be voted up or down at the council's next regular meeting on March 3.

The council previously considered possible plans at a work session on Feb. 11, but in last week's work session Thursday, it narrowed down the options that councilors want Springer to include in his final proposal.

All three would be offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the city's current insurance provider.

The three plans in the proposal Springer was asked to finalize include one which is basically the same as the city's current coverage. The only change would be raising the amount the employee must pay for treatment by a specialist from $30 to $50. The employee premium also would cost an extra $20 at each level of coverage.

The second plan would also be similar to the current plan, but would not include coverage for treatment at TriStar Summit, since that hospital corporation does not accept the plan. This plan would have the same premium employees are currently paying.

No-premium option

The third plan would differ the most. It would also not be accepted by TriStar Summit, but it would feature a $3,000 deductible which could be at least partly paid for by a Health Saving Account (HSA).

The HSA would include funds contributed each month by the city - $100 for a single employee, $150 for an employee and spouse or an employee and children, and $200 for an employee and entire family.

The employee could also choose to add money to the account as well, and it would "roll over" from year to year. The funds could be used to pay for office calls, dental and vision needs, prescriptions, hospitalizations and/or emergency room visits. After the deductible was met, there would be no copays. This plan would have no employee premium - the city would pay the cost.

Springer said the city will wait to decide if it should provide a separate long-term disability plan for all employees, depending on how much the city saves when employees make their choices. He also said his office will create a worksheet to allow people to compare what they are now paying and how much the new plans would cost both in premiums and in out-of-pocket expenses.

New beacon, sidewalks

At the special called meeting, the city council also unanimously approved, on second reading, ordinances:

Appropriating $5,000 in matching funds for a $95,000 state grant to replace the rotating beacon light at the Lebanon Airport; and,

Authorizing needed sidewalk improvements on the northwest corner of the Lebanon Square.

Writer Connie Esh can be contacted at

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energy, green, Lebanon, Lebanon City Council, Lebanon Public Works, wastewater treatment plant
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