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Grants for Recycling Businesses Available

28 Feb

$500,000 is now available statewide to allow businesses to purchase equipment to manufacture products out of recycled materials, according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. A 50% match is required. Let’s hope we see some applications from entrepreneurs in Monroe County!  This might be an opportunity for public-private partnerships as well, such as the partnership between Bloomington Pedal Power, Monroe County Solid Waste Management District, and the City of Bloomington that created the Downtown Bloomington Recycling Center.

More information is available here: http://www.in.gov/recycle/5745.htm

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Progress on Stormwater Program

11 Feb

Wanted to update everyone on some forward motion in the county’s new Stormwater Management Program (establishing this program was one of the pillars of my platform when I ran for Council in the 2008).  The Council approved the program (and the stormwater fee to fund it) back in July of 2011.

On Tuesday (2/7/2012), the County Council’s Personnel Administration Committee (PAC) approved the creation of several new positions essential to the program:

Drainage Engineer/MS4 Operator: This position will coordinate the entire stormwater management program, as well as being in charge of compliance, engineering, and reporting on stormwater management activities. Perhaps most importantly, this position will be responsible for responding to complaints by the public on drainage and flooding-related issues.

Stormwater Inspector: Perhaps the most important position in the entire program, the inspector will be out in the field verifying construction practices, documenting problems (including running out after big storms to photograph the evidence), and making sure that the construction firms comply with all of the applicable drainage requirements. The inspector will also be in charge of detecting and reporting illicit discharges, one of the areas that Monroe County was weakest at in our last IDEM stormwater audit.

Stormwater Equipment Operator: This position will work out of the Highway Garage, and will work on a crew that will be in charge of cleaning, replacing, and repairing culverts and road and ditch pipes, both to prevent and address flooding problems. The operator will also be able to assist in snow and ice removal during bad weather, when ditch maintenance isn’t possible.

PAC approved these position descriptions 3-0 (Kelson, Langley, McKim voting in favor). Now that these position descriptions have been approved by PAC, they will still need to be classified and voted on by the full County Council (PAC is an advisory committee only), likely in the March Council meeting. The Council will need to approve the position descriptions, classifications, and salaries of the positions (a lot of people don’t realize that fixing position descriptions, classifications, and salaries of county positions is a statutory Council responsibility), amend the salary ordinance to include the new positions, create budget lines to pay the positions out of, and then appropriate funding from the stormwater fee into these budget lines. Expect to see further activity on creating these positions and appropriating the budget for these functions in the next couple of months.

Solid Waste District CAC Members Discuss Anaerobic Digesters

9 Dec

Members of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District (MCSWMD) Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) have recently been researching anaerobic digesters and their potential both to reduce the volume and emissions of organic materials going to landfill, but also as a source of renewable energy.

In short, anaerobic digestion is “the process where plant and animal material (biomass) is converted into useful products by micro-organisms in the absence of air. This biomass can be unwanted ‘wastes’, such as slurry or leftover food, or crops grown specifically for feeding the digester.”  The outputs from the digestion process are biogas (which can be burned as fuel) and digestate, which can be used as fertilizer and plant nutrient. (Source: NNFCC Renewable Fuels and Energy Factsheet Anaerobic Digestion Nov 11).

Traditionally, anaerobic digestion has been used mainly as a waste management technology for industrial agricultural operations. However, the technology is seeing increasing use in municipal applications, and the energy generation through biogas, originally merely a side-effect of the process, is becoming in and of itself a reason to implement the system (though efficiencies are still relatively low compared to other power generation technologies).

CAC members Steve Akers and Dave Parsons (also a member of the newly-created Monroe County Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission), along with District Executive Director Larry Barker attended the BioCycle 11th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling in Madison, WI in October, and brought back some information about anaerobic digestion. Akers and Parsons presented some of the topics they learned about to other CAC members at the December meeting (see the MCSWMD Citizens Advisory Committee Minutes for 2011-12-01 for a nice synopsis, and their slides are available here).

I suspect we will be hearing quite a bit more about anaerobic digestion in the near future, as it would seem to plan an integral role in fulfilling a vision of Monroe County as a zero-waste community.