Incinerator may be 'mothballed' for 1 yearThe city is exploring the option of temporarily shuttering its incinerator in the face of economic challenges and unanswered questions.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
The city is exploring the option of temporarily shuttering its incinerator in the face of economic challenges and unanswered questions.
The operation has been costing the city a significant amount of money, and external factors out of its control have hampered changes.
“We’ve been fighting this a long time, and I just don’t see it changing,” Council administrator Kay Kuhlmann said.
During a workshop Monday night, city staff suggested “mothballing” the incinerator for up to one year and signing an agreement with Xcel Energy to utilize its burning operations.
“That’s the most prudent step and action we can take at this point,” Council member Mike Schultz agreed.
There have been improvements in the situation at the Red Wing solid waste campus, Deputy Director of Solid Waste Jeff Schneider said. Revenues were up from the same time last year, for example. The site also recently received approval to take pharmaceutical waste from law enforcement agencies.
Public Works Director Rick Moskwa said there has been “significant improvement,” but the incinerator likely still would need roughly $350,000 to $550,000 from the city annually to continue current operations.
The city is waiting to see if the state will enforce a rule requiring waste from the seven-county metro area to be taken to nearby waste-to-energy facilities such as Red Wing’s incinerator. That increase in waste would make the operation more economically viable.
When and if that will be enforced is up in the air, though it now seems more certain than it has in the past, staff said.
Xcel is hoping that if it partners with the city, a one-year contract could start Jan. 1, Moskwa said. It’s a quick turnaround, but could be possible, he added.
Xcel burns refuse-derived fuel at its steam plant off Highway 61. The fuel comes from processed garbage collected in Washington County.
An agreement with Xcel paired with getting a waste shredder could still keep the city from landfilling waste, one of the benefits of an incinerator.
“Now we can still do the environmentally right thing, but we can burn it through Xcel,” Kuhlmann said.
After a year, more answers would be available, and legislative help could be a factor as well, staff said.
Shredder costs vary but are roughly $1 million. There is a grant the city could apply for to purchase the equipment, or also could rent.
If the state policy is enforced, Red Wing could reopen the incinerator and still would need the shredder to work with Xcel and handle increased waste at the facility, staff said.
“You’re not losing any ground,” Kuhlmann said.
But Council member Peggy Rehder said she is not ready to “throw in the towel” yet.
“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last couple years” on the state’s enforcement of the waste policy, she said.
Temporarily closing the incinerator would carry maintenance costs, and Rehder said members also need to know how much it would cost to start up the facility again before they can make any decisions about mothballing. The facility also will need capital improvements within the next few years.
Steam from the incinerator also helps power the S.B. Foot tannery, and the group did not discuss how that would be affected.
The city has been in talks with Xcel about this and a host of other agreements to work together.
“When we first started meeting, we identified a lot of different ways the city could work with Xcel and vice versa,” said Council member Lisa Bayley, who also serves on the solid waste committee. “We’re getting that narrowed down and … looking at sort of a global agreement.”
Staff is slated to meet with Xcel again within the next two weeks.