Wilmington breaks ground on wastewater energy plant

Wilmington leaders celebrated the start of work on the city’s new facility that will turn gases from wastewater treatment and a nearby landfill into energy.

Mayor James Baker was joined by other city and state leaders to break ground on the Renewable Energy Biosolids Facility, which will be built beside the city’s Hay Road Wastewater Treatment Plant.  The $36 million facility will take gases from wastewater plant and from the nearby Cherry Island Landfill and turn it into electricity.  The excess heat from the electricity will be used to reduce the amount of sludge or biosolids produced by the wastewater treatment process.  

“The biosolids are a natural product of treating wastewater, and this will reduce biosolids from 140 to 35 tons,” said incoming Councilman Darius Brown, who represents the 3rd District where the treatment site is located.  “It is part of our investment in the 3rd district to make sure that we provide and sustain adequate infrastructure in the city of Wilmington.” 

“This is the perfect sustainable solution,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin.  “You’re taking what is a byproduct of treating our wastewater and turning it into an energy source, then you use that, you reduce your carbon footprint, you’re saving money on the energy that goes back into the plant.”

The groundbreaking marks the start of 18 months of construction that is expected to employ about 100 workers.  Five workers will run the plant when it is finished in early 2014.  The city will finance the project through the sale of municipal bonds.  As part of the city’s Guaranteed Energy Performance Contract, the energy savings the plant will generate are guaranteed to exceed the costs.

For Mayor Baker, the groundbreaking on an environmental project marks one of his last in office before Mayor-elect Dennis Williams takes over in early January.  Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Collin O’Mara reflected on Baker’s environmental legacy, calling him an example for other local leaders.  

“When you take a step back, and think all of the things the Baker administration accomplished for the environment, it really does create a model for the entire state,” O’Mara said.  He says Baker has been on the front line of pushing the state to protect the environment.  The state followed Wilmington’s example in establishing single-stream recycling.  O’Mara says during Baker’s 12 years in office, Wilmington has added 800kW of solar panel installations on city land.  

He says this latest project will continue that environmental legacy.  “This project is one of the most technically complex of any in the entire state, but the outcomes that it’s going to achieve are absolutely remarkable.”

WHYY previewed the project on “First” back in July. You can watch the story below: 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.