Question: Who owns and operates the facility?
Answer: It is owned by the City of Spokane and operated by Wheelabrator Spokane Inc. under a 20 year contract with the City.
Question: How long did it take to build the facility?
Answer: The construction time was 22 months.
Question: When did the Waste to Energy Facility begin operation?
Answer: The first refuse fire was September 6, 1991.
Question: What is the difference between waste to energy and incineration?
Answer: The term “incinerator” properly refers to facilities whose sole function is to burn waste material with no energy recovery. Waste to energy facilities are similar to other power plants except they utilize combustion of municipal waste to generate power.
Question: How much did the facility cost and how is it being paid for?
Answer: The waste to energy facility, including the adjacent recycling and household hazardous waste areas, cost $110 million dollars. The entire system, including the two transfer stations, cost $135 million. The City of Spokane received a $60,000,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE). Revenue bonds, which are being repaid from tipping fees, financed the remainder.
Question: Why did Spokane choose WTE instead of a landfill?
Answer: In the 1980’s City and County landfills were filling up. In fact, Spokane County landfills have polluted the environment and are on the Federal Superfund list for clean-up. Spokane spent over $100,000,000 cleaning up these landfills. Several alternatives were studied, and a waste-to-energy facility was determined to be environmentally and financially the best option.
Question: How do you clean up old landfills?
Answer: There are many ways to clean an old landfill. The most popular way to stop the migration of the landfill waste water is to cap the site. In order to cap the site, the landfill is covered with a heavy plastic cover to prevent water from percolating through the garbage and carrying contaminants to the aquifer, and then it is covered with soil and landscaped. An interior gas extraction system vents the methane gas that forms as the garbage decays. Contaminated ground water below the site is pumped through a cleaning system and released to a waterway.
Question: How can I be sure that the emissions from the WTE Facility are being monitored?
Answer: Continuous emission monitors test and record quantities in the stack every 15 seconds. Monthly reports are submitted to SCAPCA and are available for public viewing. The facility is regulated by the following agencies:
1. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
2. Spokane Air Pollution Control Authority (SCAPCA)
3. Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE)
4. Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD)
Question: Can the facility be expanded?
Answer: Yes, the facility can be expanded by adding an additional 400 ton per day boiler to the existing two 400 ton per day boilers. There are currently no plans to add another boiler.
Question: Why is recycling so important to the Solid Waste System?
Answer: The Solid Waste System has a four-step integrated plan:
1. Waste Reduction (reduce and reuse)
4. Minimal Landfilling
Recycling is a very large part of Spokane's solid waste management. In 2005, Spokane County's recycling rate was 44%. Recycling has a major impact on our garbage capacity requirements.
Question: Can I bring everything to the WTE Facility and/or Transfer Stations that I used to take to the old landfill?
Answer: Yes. In fact, in addition to your normal garbage, System facilities accept recyclables and household hazardous waste at no charge in designated areas and are open 7 days per week.
Question: How much garbage is in the pit on an average day?
Answer: Approximately 3000-4000 tons. The pit is 140' long × 50' wide × 40' deep ( an additional 40' at the back wall) and has the capacity to hold 5000 tons.
Question: How hot is the fire in the boiler?
Answer: Approximately 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Question: How is the ash transported?
Answer: Ash is transported by rail to an ash monofill in the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Klickitat County, WA
Question: How much electricity is generated?
Answer: In 2005 the waste to energy plant generated 178,017 megawatt hours of electricity from 277,196 tons of Spokane County trash.
Question: Where is the energy sold?
Answer: The electricity is wheeled through Avista Utilities Washington Water Power Division and Bonneville Power Administration lines, and is eventually sold to Puget Sound Energy Corporation. Avista had, and still has, a power surplus and would only resell the power to other buyers. Puget Sound Energy Corp., on the other hand, had a need for more electricity and was willing to sign an attractive long-term (20 year) power purchase agreement.