Friday, April 13, 2001

Martin Co. prepares to turn garbage into gas

The Associated Press

        INEZ, Ky. — A proposed new method for disposing of household garbage could make landfills obsolete.

        Or it could be yet another source of air pollution.

        The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection will know one way or the other when a $1.5 million waste-gasification plant being built on a secluded mountaintop in Martin County begins a six-day test run.

[photo] Michael Pope, president of International Environmental Technologies, Inc., explains the process of waste gasification
(Associated Press photo)
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        Because the concept is new, the Martin County Fiscal Court and the Kentucky Division of Air Quality want to see it run before deciding whether to issue an operating permit.

        The test run could be conducted as early as next month.

        International Environmental Technology Inc., a Danville company, has been marketing the waste-gasification system for the past five years. Company representatives say it will convert household trash into a clean-burning fuel with no harmful byproducts. Some local residents aren't so sure.

        Company president Michael Pope said he understands people's skepticism, but insists the process works. He said the trash is turned into gases by heating it to 800 degrees in an oxygen-starved chamber for about 12 hours.

        The gases would be burned to heat a series of greenhouses and to power a refrigerated warehouse that will be constructed on an 8-acre tract on the mountaintop.

        Flowers would be grown for sale in the greenhouses.

        Mr. Pope said the only byproduct will be a fine powder that would be used to manufacture concrete curb stops and septic tanks.

        “We want to determine the performance capability of the facility,” said Matt Hackathorn, a spokesman for the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. “During the test, we'll perform plenty of monitoring, and once it shuts down, we'll analyze the process.”

        Mr. Hackathorn said the process is so new state inspectors just aren't sure how well it will work.

        “All we want is a chance,” Mr. Pope said. “If it doesn't pass muster, then so be it.”

        Monroe Cassady, coordinator of the Big Sandy Environmental Coalition in Inez, said residents are suspicious of the proposal.

        “Most people are not in favor of it,” he said. “They'd have to bring garbage in from outside the county to operate the plant. People in Martin County don't want other people's garbage.”


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