L’Anse power plant considers burning plastic as fuel source

L’ANSE — A local power maker is hoping to change it’s fuel source in the near future, and it has citizens who reside in it’s general vicinity concerned. Many turned out at the L’Anse Area School last night for a set of public meetings that could result in permitting the L’Anse Warden Power Plant to burn plastic as a fuel source.

As our demand for power increases, so do production costs and the L’Anse Warden power plant is looking to offset some of those costs by using a more economical fuel. Mary Ann Dolehanty is the Director of Air Quality for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She and her colleagues were on hand last night to inform and answer any questions from the community.

“They have requested permission to burn and additional fuel in their fuel mix,” said Mary Ann Dolehanty. “That fuel being an engineered fuel pellet that has plastic as part of the fuel. They do have a plastic component to them.”

Plastic burns very well, but it’s also known to produce environmentally harmful emissions, which is why we’re told not to discard soda bottles in the camp fire. The plant won’t be burning soda bottles though, the engineered pellet is comprised of a pressed mix of paper products, and discarded industrial packaging that has no more recycling options. The facility has been burning the material for the past year, to see if it would meet environmental standards, as well or better than the current fuel source. It was stated at last night’s meeting that testing results show that the engineered pellets have less of an environmental impact than what the plant uses currently to produce electricity.

“Right now they have a combination where they burn wood, wood pellets, they burn tire derived fuel, which is a pelleted tire, once the wires have been pulled out,” Dolehanty said. “They also burn railroad ties that have been soaked in creosote. They are not allowed to burn, any longer, a specific type of railroad ties that was problematic in the past. That was infiltrated with pentachloroetheline.”

Many residents remember when the plant did burn that particular type of railroad tie, and raised concerns.

“It associated with the penta wood being burned,” said Dolehanty. “They had some odor issues, and some other types of issues there, so they’re no longer allowed to burn that material. We’ll be taking all the questions that we receive tonight, and then making a decision based on that type of information.”

Some had questions pertaining to how the plant will meet environmental standards.

“What they have at the facility right now is they have an ESP, which is an electrostatic precipitator, which is a control device for emissions,” said Dolehanty. “So it does knock out some of the particulate emissions. With this application, what they’re proposing to do is add what’s called in sorbent injection. The engineered pellets come with the plastic and when you burn that it generates acid gasses, so the sorbent that they are going to inject into the stack, the purpose of it is to reduce the acid in the gasses so it will neutralize it so when it does get emitted, it’s compliant and health protective.”

After reviewing the comments from residents, the department will either, deny, approve the permit, or approve it with stipulations.

“If we need to approach the company with conditions that they would need to operate on prior to making a decision. If the permit is issued, the company would be able to begin immediately.”

That decision is expected to be made in the upcoming weeks.

“It’s not going to be years, it’s not going to be months, but it’ll be several weeks, is my guess while we evaluate all of the comments and make that final decision.”