Tusten to get digestion system

By LINDA DROLLINGER
Posted 9/18/19

NARROWSBURG, NY — Food waste goes in; clear liquid fertilizer comes out. In oversimplified terms, that’s how Tusten’s new commercial enclosed digester will work.

Tusten Energy …

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Tusten to get digestion system

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NARROWSBURG, NY — Food waste goes in; clear liquid fertilizer comes out. In oversimplified terms, that’s how Tusten’s new commercial enclosed digester will work.

Tusten Energy Committee (TEC) Chair Brandi Merolla announced at the September 10 Tusten Town Board meeting the award of a $138,000 grant that will be used for purchase, installation, housing and operation of the digester. TEC’s project, spearheaded by Jennifer Porter, will present an opportunity to eliminate food waste from restaurants, grocers, farmer’s markets and consumers.

“Everyone is urged to compost food and other organic waste at home, but if you can’t, or don’t want to, the town’s new digester will be one avenue for sustainable food waste management,” said Merolla.

 When Porter first suggested an enclosed commercial digester for the town, the TEC visited one currently in use at Wayne Highlands School District in Honesdale, PA. Although “The Rocket” accepts the same type of organic waste material anticipated for Tusten’s composter, it produces a brown soil-like mulch, not the clear liquid that Tusten’s high-solids organic-waste recycling system with electrical output (HORSE) will deliver.

The HORSE bioenergy system is designed to scale down the size and cost of anaerobic digestion, a collection of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic digestion has industrial and domestic applications, for both waste management and the production of fuels as well as fertilizer.

A slight modification of the system will produce onsite generation of methane gas. A two-phase anaerobic digestion process, coupled with very low energy inputs, allows for methane recovery. But the best attribute of the system is probably the robust and simple design that makes possible its operation with minimal labor, low cost and a small footprint.

Someone in the gallery noted that other municipalities have turned their food waste digesters into profit-making ventures, selling byproducts at market value. Merolla said that might be possible, but that package design and marketing studies would need to be completed beforehand. “For now, let’s just get it up and running,” said Merolla, who added that Porter’s husband would be managing its operation initially.

“Will there be an odor?” asked someone from the gallery.

“We were told it would smell like Thanksgiving,” said Merolla, noting that the digester will be housed in the vicinity of the highway department barn.
Another question from the gallery: “If it can digest anything edible, could it, for instance, consume birds killed by flying into closed windows? The only difference between a chicken or turkey and a dead wild bird would be the head, feet and feathers.” That question prompted this one: “Will it take roadkill?”

Merolla said she couldn’t answer those questions, but promised to find out exactly what kinds of carrion the digester is designed to handle. More information can be found in this video: www.bit.ly/digestioncenter.

In other business, Tusten has a job opening for water/sewer superintendent.

Tusten’s own 9/11 memorial featured a piece of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center mounted on blue stone and placed in front of the town hall. Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther promised a $1,000 contribution toward the $3,000 total cost of the project; donations are welcome.

Merolla thanked the public for its enthusiastic environmental stewardship, while announcing that the town has collected 544 pounds of soft plastic recycling in just five weeks, easily qualifying for one free composite bench from Trex. She asks that people continue to bring clean, dry plastic packaging to collection boxes at Pete’s Market, the Narrowsburg Post Office, Narrowsburg Union and Tusten Town Hall lobby.

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