Major water project finished

EORWA plant can make its own electricity

MEL KURTZ, CEO of Quasar Energy Group, talks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration of upgrades to the East Ohio Regional Wastewater Authority’s plant in Bellaire on Tuesday. T-L Photo/ SHELLEY HANSON

BELLAIRE — Thanks to a $5.3 million project, the East Ohio Regional Wastewater Authority can now generate its own electricity using the waste it processes at its plant in Bellaire.

The upgrades were celebrated during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, complete with tours and lunch offered to the EORWA workers, contractors and local dignitaries.

Valerie Moore, EORWA executive director, said about five years ago she received a call from Renato Contipelli, a developer with Quasar Energy Group of Independence, Ohio, who pitched the idea of retrofitting the plant to become an energy neutral facility. Moore said she contacted EORWA’s engineer, Jeff Vaughn, about the sales pitch, and he agreed a meeting should be held with Quasar. Later EORWA’s board members approved going ahead with the project.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Alan Johnson, Quasar vice president of Project Management and Development, said the plant now sequesters about 1,700 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Existing digesters at the plant were retrofitted to be able to allow the plant to capture the resulting methane gas, which is then converted into electricity via a microturbine on site.

Some organic material is added to aid the creation of additional gas. The electricity is used to power the plant. Extra electricity that not used is put back into the electrical grid system.

The plant now also creates Class A biosolids, which can be used to fertilize farm land growing food for humans. Previously the plant could only produce Class B biosolids, which can only be used on farm land used to feed animals.

Mike Dobbs, EORWA operations manager, said in addition to solid waste from surrounding communities, the plant also now takes waste from other companies, such as food wastes like glycerin from companies that produce lunch meat, larger dairies and more.

Other local municipalities with their own, older wastewater plants also are starting to bring their materials to EORWA instead of taking them to a landfill. For example, the city of Steubenville brings its matter about three times per week. The plant also has received material from Cambridge and Columbus.

Dobbs said bringing it to the EORWA facility can be cheaper than using a landfill. Clint Pemberton, Quasar business manager, said the cost of the plant’s tipping fees varies depending on the waste and volume. However, he noted tipping fees for solid waste can range from $24 to $45 per ton. Quasar, which continues to help manage the incoming waste, receives a percentage of the tipping fees.

In addition to Moore, Johnson and Contipelli, other speakers during the event included EORWA board President Roger Stewart of Brookside; Quasar Energy Group CEO Mel Kurtz; Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction; Ken Heigel, interim executive director of the Ohio Water Development Authority, which provided the loan for the project; David Hall, director of USDA Ohio Rural Development; and Belmont County Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Fregiato. Wheeling resident Vila Jenkins sang the national anthem.

Stewart noted he and his fellow board members — Joe Campbell of Bellaire, James Schramm of Martins Ferry and Marvin Husarick of Bridgeport — have been working hard to keep the plant running well.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve on this board of trustees because we certainly have a dedicated staff of administrators and people working so hard, and our employees who work in the plant and out in the field are very dedicated,” Stewart said. “We’ve been doing things to try and think outside of the box where we can make a very safe and efficient operation. We’ve been doing that. This board of trustees and executive committee, we’ve worked very hard in updating everything here. We don’t want to be like other areas where everything is falling apart. I can tell you for a fact that this sewer authority is in top shape, and we’re doing things to minimize expenses in the future.”

Several people thanked the EORWA employees’ for their hard work and for their willingness to meet the challenge of changing the system.

Other dignitaries who were pointed out in the audience included Bellaire Mayor Vince DiFabrizio, Belmont County Commissioner Jerry Echemann and Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire.

Moore said Quasar designed and built, with help from several different contractors, the new and retrofitted portions of the facility.

“This group of individuals … have worked side by side with our employees and myself. They have gone the extra mile to get this project to where it is today. There is no amount of thanks I can give to Quasar. We’re going to work on continued support because we believe in the company and what they can do for us and the valley in the future,” Moore said.

In his speech about the history of the plant, Fregiato noted it was first built in 1964.

“The collection facilities intercepted old community sewers discharging into the Ohio River and creeks and routed them to the treatment plant,” he said of the plant’s beginnings.

In addition to Quasar, contractors who were part of the project included Advanced Power Technologies, AEP, Agri-Sludge, Bridgeport Equipment and Tool, Border Patrol, Core & Main, Ecomembrane, Endress + Hauser, Erb Electric, Fastenal Co., GraniteFuel Engineering, ICR Equipment, Industrial Technology Solutions, Isler Demolition, JWC Environmental, JGM Valve Corp., Kucera Plumbing, Lanco Electric, Mid Atlantic Storage Systems, Neff Paving, Newswanger Machine, Northeast Erectors, Ohio Water Development Authority, Orbinox, Prout, Quasar Energy Group, Rexel, Roberts Mechanical Equipment, Seepex, Sidwell Materials, Steele Insurance Associates, Sugarcreek Concrete, Totterdale Bros. Supply, Tri-Son Concrete, Valley Fence Co., Vaughn Coast & Vaughn and the Vaughn Co.

A lunch consisting of pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, scalloped potatoes, cole slaw and pasta salad was made by Oliver Farms of Zanesville, Ohio. The cake was made by Tina’s Sweet Celebrations of Martins Ferry. Attendees were given a gift bag containing a coffee mug and T-shirt with the EORWA’s new logo, which says “EORWA Resource Recovery.”


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