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North Elba consults county worker who worked on biodigester designs

September 16, 2017
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer (aolivero@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - North Elba town Councilmen Derek Doty and Bob Miller reported to the board Tuesday that their municipal biodigester project may take an unexpected step forward thanks to a local man who has worked on the organic waste devices in the past.

The councilmen said Essex County's environmental manager, Todd Hodgson, has worked on biodigester designs in the past and joined them recently when they hosted a meeting to discuss the biodigester plans.

A biodigester breaks down organic waste and produces energy, in this case electricity. North Elba's would be located at the town transfer station in Lake Placid.

Miller said Hodgson helped the town get all parties involved with the biodigester at one table, enabling them to have a small team without middlemen rather than outsourcing all the device's design to an outside company.

Doty said Hodgson will work with Stefan Grimberg, a Clarkson engineering professor who for many months has worked with Doty and Miller on the project.

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi added that Hodgson's contributions would come at no cost to town taxpayers.

"Everybody is excited because we are going to write an entirely new request for proposal that will be clearer," Doty said.

Miller couched the news, however, by saying that the key remains the town finding a company that is willing to do the work for a cost the town is OK with.

"Is there a company that can look at this thing and honestly tell us, 'We can do it for X number of dollars'?" Miller said.

Tuesday's town board meeting took place at the North Elba Town House in Saranac Lake.

This summer, North Elba officials decided to pull out of a previously agreed-upon plan with the company Bioferm to build a biodigester to convert food waste into energy. This occurred after Miller and Doty found out Bioferm's asking price was over budget.

Miller and Doty said Bioferm announced at "the 11th hour" that it would need at least $250,000 more than the $1.2 million covered by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The company also said the town would have to do extra site work and that, instead of building a new biodigester on site, as contracted, Bioferm would ship a used device from Italy, refurbish it and give it a one-year warrantee.

Some other municipalities around the country use biodigesters, but North Elba would be the first in the region. The town and Lake Placid High School science teacher Tammy Morgan, who has been the lead proponent for a biodigester for several years, say the need for the machine is due to the large number of restaurants in the town, meaning food waste makes up a larger-than-average proportion of the garbage.

 
 

 

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